Soda taxes have overwhelmingly failed in cities and states across the country over the last few years. Poll after poll has shown that these taxes are unpopular with voters. Real world experience shows that taxes aren't the solution to the complex issue of obesity. And when it comes to the many ways in which some in the public health community are “selling” the benefits of soda taxes, there’s simply more myth than fact. Yet, some policymakers still seek to place a discriminatory tax on beverages – and Vermont is the latest.
Last week, State Rep. Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol, stood alongside others to announce a proposal to tax sugar-sweetened beverages at a penny per ounce – allegedly to help address obesity. Yesterday, however, the Stop the Vermont Beverage Tax Coalition – a group of concerned citizens, businesses and community organizations that oppose new taxes on many grocery items - held a press conference to share how the tax will fail to achieve that goal, and have unintended consequences in the process. In fact, such a tax won’t impact behavior or reduce obesity. But what it will do is unfairly tax the least able to pay, cause retailers to spread cost hikes across all beverages and, ultimately, push Vermonters across the border into New Hampshire to make beverage purchases – and likely other items as well.
According to an article on VTDigger.com, other state policymakers may have a different viewpoint on soda taxes than Rep. Sharpe. Among them, Gov. Peter Shumlin opposes the tax. And Health Commissioner Harry Chen shared in a previous VTDigger.com article that “the research on a sugar-sweetened beverage tax is not conclusive … it is clear that it is not a magic bullet.”
The Stop the Vermont Beverage Tax Coalition already has collected more than 6,000 signatures asking the Legislature to reject a discriminatory tax on beverages. In addition, about 100 businesses and groups – comprised mostly of Vermont retailers – oppose the legislation as well.
The bottom line is –taxes don’t make people healthier. If you are one of our readers in Vermont, we hope you will take a few minutes to sign on to the coalition’s online petition.