Fight obesity? Add sales tax to soda tab

Sep 16, 2009

Presenting a united front in the war on obesity, diabetes and other nutrition-related disorders, seven of America’s leading public health and economics experts are urging passage of taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB).

Their report, which suggests how such taxes could improve nutrition as well as recoup some of the country’s enormous healthcare costs related to these diseases, appears in the October 15 print edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, and online at nejm.org on September 16.

Citing numerous studies, the authors show that SSB consumption has been linked to problems such as heart disease, diabetes and most notably weight gain due to increased caloric intake. With medical costs for overweight and obesity alone estimated to be $147 billion (9.1% of U.S. healthcare expenditures), the authors suggest a tax on SSBs as a viable means to recoup some of these costs, and as a way to generate revenue that could be used for child nutrition and obesity prevention programs. The nation has a history of consumption taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and other products.

The authors propose a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which would raise about $150 billion over a ten-year period. In a single year, taxes at the state level would generate an estimated $139 million in Arkansas, $183 million in Oregon, $221 million in Alabama, $928 million in Florida, $937 million in New York, $1.2 billion in Texas, and $1.8 billion in California. A tax calculator at www.yaleruddcenter.org/what_we_do.aspx?id=271 estimates revenue figures for states and 25 major cities.

Kelly Brownell, Director of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, notes: “A tax on sugared beverages has four features that make it unique: It would have immediate impact; it would have a beneficial effect on the nation’s diet; unlike education programs, it costs nothing; and it would generate considerable revenue that could support key health programs. I know of no other approach that meets all these criteria.”

The authors of “The Public Health and Economic Benefits of Taxing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages” include: Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D., Yale University; Thomas Farley, M.D., M.P.H., New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., Harvard School of Public Health; Barry M. Popkin, Ph.D., University of North Carolina; Frank J. Chaloupka, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago; Joseph W. Thompson, M.D., M.P.H., Surgeon General for the State of Arkansas; David S. Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School.

Provided by Yale University

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User comments : 32

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magpies
4.2 / 5 (6) Sep 16, 2009
I know... Lets tax every thing for the benefit of gov!
Hungry4info2
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 16, 2009
A 1 cent tax per ounce is going to stop people from drinking as much soda? Really?
Coops
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 16, 2009
eat less run more...tax free weight loss option
freethinking
2.1 / 5 (11) Sep 16, 2009
Hey crazy liberals... you guys need tax orange juice a lot of people who drink oj are fat. Hey food police... a lot of people over-eat meat so meat should be taxed... hey kooky democrats high fat salad dressing is unhealthy and should be taxed.... hey big government lover, you should tax every calorie over 2000 someone consumes as consuming excess calories causes weight gain.
How about taxing every pound someone is overweight, force people to report their BMI to a governement watchdog... hey wait! This shouldnt be too hard if Obama gets his health care.
Psyleid
4 / 5 (9) Sep 16, 2009
Most "liberals" think this is just as ridiculous as you do.
freethinking
Sep 17, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
jcrow
Sep 17, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
docknowledge
3 / 5 (4) Sep 17, 2009
count me a liberal, conservative or whatever, it seems obvious that a punitive tax would only work if people generally recognized it existed. I have zero idea how much gas, cigarettes, or anything else is taxed. I just decide whether they are worthwhile on a cost/benefit basis.
mysticfree
4 / 5 (5) Sep 17, 2009
Taxes on alcohol and cigarettes have been soooo effective on stopping alcoholics and smokers ...
Velanarris
3.3 / 5 (7) Sep 17, 2009
If anything this is more evidence that the tax code is improperly used as a method of social control.

You get a benefit if you get married.
You get a benefit to buy a house.
You get a benefit if you have kids.
You save money if you don't smoke or drink.

Here's a better idea: 1 flat tax, be it sales or income, at a federal level. Then you can adjsut the percentage against the GDP and GNP to create a balanced flow of money through the economy and back to the people in the form of services or bailouts.
ArtflDgr
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 17, 2009
and of course they are also going to give a tax rebate to those who are not fat...

one size fits all utopia...

of course, an engineer who builds a bridge is working an applied science. a social engineer is just a person who wants to experiment on people like mengele without them complaining or having IRB approval. so they couch their solutions as "fads" en education, economics, etc... they refusde to return to what has worked and build on it, and they do what amounts to great harm on swaths of the peoplupation as if they are bacteria being guided by acid and sugar to perform for them.

FatBob
3 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2009
I don't know what the big deal is with this one. As an overweight person I think this is a great idea. I think they should change the rules a little and tax anything that has certain types of sugar and also include anything containing caffeine. Of course they should consider putting the money toward reducing the cost of healthier alternatives.
earls
Sep 17, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Velanarris
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 17, 2009
I don't know what the big deal is with this one. As an overweight person I think this is a great idea. I think they should change the rules a little and tax anything that has certain types of sugar and also include anything containing caffeine. Of course they should consider putting the money toward reducing the cost of healthier alternatives.

The reason why this is an issue goes back to the old saying, "give them an inch and they'll take a mile".
Now let's be clear, I'm not saying that being overweight or having a poor diet is a good idea, but it is a personal choice. The last thing government should have any influence in is personal choice.
MGraser
4.3 / 5 (3) Sep 17, 2009
It's more likely the oversize portions I eat and the chips and the cheese and peanut butter, etc. that cause my weight trouble - not soda. As someone who is successfully dieting, I find that my 0 calorie sodas help keep me filled and provide that extra something that's missing when I want to snack.

Now, I'm not saying that soda is healthy, but the 0 calorie sodas are a life-save. I lost 30 pounds in 4 months, while still consuming 2 sodas per day.

The government is just looking to tax something that has large income potential for them - they don't really care about the health benefits (which are 0).
defunctdiety
4.5 / 5 (4) Sep 17, 2009
I'm not saying that being overweight or having a poor diet is a good idea, but it is a personal choice. The last thing government should have any influence in is personal choice.
...
The government is just looking to tax something that has large income potential for them - they don't really care about the health benefits ...

I wish more people could see the absolute truth in these contributions.

I find that my 0 calorie sodas help keep me filled and provide that extra something that's missing when I want to snack.

It is worth knowing that your body still has to devote energy to metabolizing what are essentially toxins present in these misleading 0 calorie drinks (coloring, artificial sweetner, etc.), energy that would otherwise be spent metabolizing carbs and lipids and other essential nutrients or building muscle, etc. For sure they are better than normal soda drinks, but you'd be better off drinking lots and lots of water which facilitates weight loss.
meeker
4.5 / 5 (4) Sep 17, 2009
I'm not a Republican, but even I know this isn't a good idea. It's not fair to soda companies. Granted, I think they should use sugar over high-fructose corn syrup. There are many HFCS studies that show it to be far worse than sugar.

If they are just going after soda companies, why aren't they going after cereal, ice cream, cookies, pasta sauce, many things have sugar. At least, attack HFCS, then soda companies would switch back to sugar like they used to. When Pepsi had their non-HFCS throwback sodas, I could tell they didn't burn my throat.

Plus, a penny per ounce? 64 cents per 2 liter? So, a 99 cent bottle of soda would cost $1.63 after tax. I'm no mathematician, but that's a 64% tax. That's a lot. When we see a bottle of juice for $3.50-$4 and a soda for 99 cents plus 64 cents, even with that tax hike ... it's still a better deal. You also get more ounces of soda than you do juice.

And what will this do? Make people turn to Diet soda? Diet soda is worse for people.
ArtflDgr
2.7 / 5 (6) Sep 17, 2009
As an overweight person I think this is a great idea.

then how about this... tax the poundage when your 15lbs or more overweight and do it directly.

then you get your raised prices for your inability to control yourself, and i get the benifit i deserve for not stuffing my face.
Velanarris
not rated yet Sep 18, 2009
As an overweight person I think this is a great idea.

then how about this... tax the poundage when your 15lbs or more overweight and do it directly.

then you get your raised prices for your inability to control yourself, and i get the benifit i deserve for not stuffing my face.

How would you determine that someone is overweight?

Please don't use the atrocity that is the body mass index. That thing is so far off base I've seen the fat called underweight and the underweight called fat because of height to weight differences in build.

Gotta love the random downranks from the faceless brianweymes.
Scryer
1 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2009
I could care less if they tax the hell out of all foods and drinks that are proven to cause health problems or health risks.

As for the government, if anything, it should be doing whatever it can to promote a healthy life-style.

I don't believe people "want" to be obese, but if they do want to be obese, then I say let them pay for it.
CaptBarbados
1 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2009
The tax is not to force people to stop drinking sodas, that would have to be a higher number. What is being proposed is that a one cent per can tax would help underwrite or offset medical costs related directly to obesity. User-pay - ONE penny
Soylent
5 / 5 (3) Sep 19, 2009
As an overweight person I think this is a great idea.


My government has an obesity problem and it needs to go on a diet; it sure as hell doesn't need anyone feeding it more junk taxes. If you want to pay a tax to disincentivice your soda habit, set aside some cash for each soda you drink and give it to the red cross or something.
Soylent
5 / 5 (3) Sep 19, 2009
Damn it, it ate my reply, twice. I'll try it without the quote this time.

No it's a 1 cent per ounce tax. Like the income tax which started at a few percent and was paid only by the super-wealthy it will gradually be expanded so the parasitic state can live off the backs of the productive private sector.

Health care was working fine until the government broke it. The AMA is a cartel that artificially limits the supply of doctors in order to drive up wages(their web page even used to say so in plain text). The price-fixing in medicare and medicaid forces the industry to shift costs to the privately insured and the un-insured, that's how you get absurdities like the $20 aspirin pill.

The intellectual monopoly granted by the government is just another form of rent-seeking. It does very little to spur innovation(being first already means you are first to market. Absurdities like the 'porcupine defense' strangle small companies before they compete) and accomplishes extraordinary harm.
otto1923
2 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2009
@soylent green
I hate that. I always copy before I post.

Theres also this discussion going on out there:
And before you say "its not my fault I am fat", obesity was almost unheard of two hundred years ago. So no it is not genetic.
This professional person may not have heard of epigenetics. After learning about what T. gondii can do, I tend to favor this:
A group of researchers have implicated the adenovirus Ad36...in the development of obesity in humans and other animals.
Bottom line though, weight gain depends on caloric intake minus calories burned. No one will die if they maintain parity on these, but if they are chronically in one direction or the other, they will. Tax. We need the money. Diet Monsters my favorite, no sugar and it speeds up the metabolism.

People will not stop overeating what science has designed to be irresistable. It will soon provide effective treatments and at that point we can begin to get moral on decrepitude.  
GDM
1.7 / 5 (3) Sep 20, 2009
Children, please! A tax on high fructose corn syrup, which is in almost everything we eat, and other unnecessary additives would (should) only be used to offset the costs of fighting the health problems they cause, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, possibly some cancers, and others. Yes, the power to tax is also the power to destroy, and that was demonstrated, unsuccessfuly, during the Prohibition. However, as demonstrated by the tobacco tax, as the costs go up, the unhealthy behavior goes down, and along with that, heath increases. People will continue to overeat, smoke, gamble, etc, and that is just fine - it is their freedom to do so, but they (not everyone else) should pay the costs associated with their choices. This is not a liberal/conservative political decision, it is just good economics. You can do what you want, just pay the true cost of your "ticket".
RayW
3 / 5 (1) Sep 20, 2009
Why not tax MSG?

"Chineese Resturant Syndrome" may not be it's only adverse effect since glutamates have paracrine effects in the human pancreas & brain. http://jgp.rupres.../185.pdf

It's use as a flavor enhancer allows low quality or diluted foods to taste the same, cutting the nutrient value & increasing the profit margin. MSG, under many different names, is added to almost all foods during processing.

MSG is addictive (maintains Brand loyalty, induces onvereating).
http://www.msgtru...tion.htm

Breaking the "you can't eat just one" addiction would directly effect obesity, and may reduce IDDM & ADHD.
magpies
2.5 / 5 (2) Sep 20, 2009
lol it starts at one penny then works its way up to a ban. That is the way of the universe and all crazy dems.
no1enter
not rated yet Sep 21, 2009
Or you can just eat less BAD fats(more good fats) and less high calorie density foods. Like 'standard' hamburgers that contain 30% fat when you could get hamburger meat that is 90%+ lean.(10% and lower fat) That way you are not get 50% calories from fat and reducing the total calorie content.
Velanarris
5 / 5 (1) Sep 21, 2009
This is not a liberal/conservative political decision, it is just good economics. You can do what you want, just pay the true cost of your "ticket".
People do pay the true cost, in their own health.

Sucking down that quarter pounder means you have to pay more for your health insurance.

Oh wait, they want to change that too.
sleepydrum
5 / 5 (2) Sep 21, 2009
We need to adjust the cost of insurance for obese people and not tax the products. I drink coke regularly but i also eat healthy and exercise regularly. Why do i have to suffer because people can't control themselves.
otto1923
3 / 5 (1) Sep 21, 2009
It's use as a flavor enhancer allows low quality or diluted foods to taste the same, cutting the nutrient value
Thats why spices became so popular in Europe and the spice trade flourished. Overpopulation caused commodity prices to rise and their quality to go down. French sauces developed to disguise the flavor of half-spoiled food. I suppose it was/is the same in china.
AlejoHausner
4 / 5 (1) Sep 21, 2009
@Velanarris "The last thing government should have any influence in is personal choice."

But the government HAS been influencing personal choice in a huge way, for decades. Agencies have PROMOTED the consumption of sugar, fruit juices, corn, spaghetti and all sorts of fattening starchy foods, in the name of "healthy" and "low-fat" eating. That advice was based largely on dogma, and not on science.

The best way to lose weight is to eat meats and leafy vegetables, all of which cost more anyway, and avoid cheap starches and sugars.

Alejo
AlejoHausner
1 / 5 (2) Sep 21, 2009
@otto1923 : "Bottom line though, weight gain depends on caloric intake minus calories burned"

If only that were true! If only exercise helped you lose weight! The thin people at the gym are there because they can't avoid being active: their bodies can't absorb calories well, and they HAVE TO burn those calories off through activity.

It's all very well to say that (weight change) = (calories in) - (calories burned), but this energy-balance equation leaves out a lot details. Before reaching simplistic conclusions based on moral prejudice, go talk to a fat person and ask him or her what they eat.

Most fat people I know eat the same amount of food as skinny people like me and you. That paradox doesn't break the energy balance equation. It means fat people's bodies are different.

Dietary advice is influenced enormously by moral dogma, and is rarely based on science.

Alejo
Velanarris
not rated yet Sep 22, 2009
@Velanarris "The last thing government should have any influence in is personal choice."

But the government HAS been influencing personal choice in a huge way, for decades. Agencies have PROMOTED the consumption of sugar, fruit juices, corn, spaghetti and all sorts of fattening starchy foods, in the name of "healthy" and "low-fat" eating. That advice was based largely on dogma, and not on science.
You're not exactly telling me something I don't know here. Look at my above comments.
GregHight
not rated yet Sep 22, 2009
I don't have a problem with a tax capturing a legitimate spillover cost that will usually be absorbed by medicare/medicaide as long as that recaptured cost is allocated to medicare coffers instead of the general fund. HFCC is killing us and it's in everything. I would like to see it taxed to the point that manufacturers will favor cane sugar over corn sugar. Corn is just natures junk food and it's not even healthy to eat fish that are raised on a corn diet.

Corn is best suited for ethanol and squirell food.

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