The evidence shows that taxes singling out one item in the grocery cart do not make people healthier, yet some continue to promote taxes as the silver bullet to public health challenges. In a letter to the editor published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, William Swann, counsel for the West Virginia Beverage Association, knocks down claims that taxes will lead to better health.
Swann points out that “federal data shows obesity rates are on the rise while soda consumption is at a 30-year low.” It defies logic, then, to suggest that soda is driving obesity when the less we drink the more obese we get.
One need to look no further than West Virginia to see that soda taxes don’t work, says Swann. “We tax the beverage consumption of our citizens but we remain one of the unhealthiest states in the nation”
And Mexico has seen similar results from its tax, where Swann reports the “tax led to a miniscule per-person reduction of 6 calories per day, an amount not measurable on a bathroom scale.”
While there are no upsides to be found when it comes to taxes, there are plenty downsides for small businesses and consumers. “Taxes on common grocery store items like beverages disproportionately impact local businesses and low-income families,” explains Swann.
Swann says there’s a better way to go about improving public health and it starts with education. “Instead of advocating for a measure that will not improve public health and will raise food prices on working families, we should seek to provide consumers with information on how to best maintain a balanced diet and give them the food and beverage choices to do so.”
To learn more about why soda taxes are a bad idea, visit the Truth About Beverage Taxes.