Are soda taxes the answer to solving America’s complex obesity issue?  Research says “no. “

Earlier in the year a tax proposal was reintroduced in Illinois that would place a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.  The proposal would also require businesses to obtain a permit to sell those drinks, which would cost them $250.  Not only that, soda taxes like the one proposed in Illinois threaten local businesses, costing cities and towns jobs and revenue.

We here at Sip & Savor have often pointed out that there is no scientific evidence that proves that a soda tax will improve public health.  Christopher Snowdon, director of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, told that he is skeptical of the bill’s true motives.

“Most soda taxes are designed to raise money, but there seems to be a genuine fanaticism behind the proposals in Illinois,” Snowdon said.

“It’s possible that the licensing regime will be enough to deter some smaller retailers from selling soda, but the penny-per-ounce tax is unlikely to lead to much of a drop in soda consumption, let alone in obesity,” Snowdon said. “No soda tax yet implemented has produced any measurable health benefits.”

Richard Williams, economist and vice president for policy research, director of the Regulatory Studies Program, and a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, also says soda tax proposals are simply a money grab and will do nothing to address the very serious and complex issue of obesity.

“One of the things we discovered in our research was that funds [from health-related taxes] go into the general fund,” Williams said.

“The key issue is that there is nothing new that anybody’s suggesting,” Williams said.  “We’ve tried all these things.  Soda is a very small percentage of the total caloric intake for most people.  That’s not likely to make any difference.  It means the state gets more money, but nobody has any idea how to bend the weight curve downward.”

We couldn’t agree more.  If we want to get serious about addressing the obesity challenge we need to work together towards more meaningful and impactful solutions that educate people about the need to balance diet and exercise.  Science has shown that the key to maintaining a healthy weight is balancing what you eat and drink with what you do.

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