All you need to know about the soda tax


All you need to know about the soda tax

By Brooklynn Schmidgall

Why a soda/sugary drink tax?

The World Health Organization says the tax discourages unhealthy diets and helps offset the economic costs of obesity, an especially relevant issue in America. Placing a tax on sugary drinks rather than certain foods will supposedly be effective because the American Heart Association reported that the largest contributor to added sugar in Americans’ diets are soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a 2009 study.

According to a 2013 American Heart Association study, “Consumption of soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages has increased 500% in the past fifty years and is now the single largest category of caloric intake in children, surpassing milk a decade ago.”

Will the tax work?

Supporters of the sugary drink tax have argued that it will work because the tobacco taxes did. As tobacco causes cancer, excess sugar causes weight gain and obesity. Though the risks are different, the two industries downplay these risks very much in the same way, one of the most common methods being funding research that downplays their products’ health risks. A worldwide reduction in tobacco use after taxation began suggests that results could be similar when a similar tax is enacted on products of a comparable industry.

What other states and countries enforce a sugary drink tax?

Denmark, France, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, South Africa and the United Kingdom all have set up a plan to or currently have a nationwide tax on heavily sugared drinks. Even though the United States does not have the tax, there are some cities that do, such as Philadelphia, San Francisco and Boulder, Colorado. The closest sugary drink tax to home is in Cook County and is a one cent per ounce tax. In Chicago, a 32-ounce soda would cost $0.32 extra. The tax in Boulder is double that, where the same soda would cost an additional $.064.

Is the tax worth it?

This is a question that cannot be easily answered. Sugar consumption may decrease with a tax on heavily sugared drinks, and it could lead to the decrease in obesity and later on, a decrease in related medical costs. On the flip side of the argument, a decrease in sales of sugary drinks could hurt the economy by decreasing profits for that industry. Those who profit from the sales of sugary beverages are fighting the tax. For example, the American Beverage Association, who increased spending on lobbying against this tax from $391,000 to $8.67 million from 2003 to 2010. Other big names fighting these taxes include Welch’s, PepsiCo Inc., McDonald’s Corporation, and Burger King Holdings Inc. Their argument is that this tax is regressive and that it will burden the poor unfairly.

What do you think?

Do you agree or disagree based on the facts above? Read what the Northern Star columnists thought about the sugar tax here.