Can a Soda Tax Prevent Obesity?

When I was much heavier, I had a massive soda addiction. I drank more than a 2 liter a day. (I know. I’m hanging my head in shame right now.) Part of that came from a daily stop at McDonald’s to grab an extra large Coke on the way to pick up the kids. I see other people doing this exact same thing all the time, and it’s everything I can do to keep my mouth shut. I don’t think anyone wants to hear my input on how bad their soda intake is for them, but I wonder if the government spoke up – would it have an affect?

Several of the nation’s leading health experts are calling for a tax on soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks as a means of curbing America’s ever growing obesity epidemic, with children as the age bracket with the highest levels of rising obesity. A report was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine touting the benefits of such a tax.

From the report:

“We can raise much-needed dollars while likely reducing obesity prevalence, which is a major driver of health care costs,” the paper states. “Ultimately the government needs to raise more money to cover the deficit, and in terms of ways of raising that revenue, a tax on sugar sweetened beverages is really a no-brainer.”

Often referred to as a “sin” tax, the soda tax has been likened to the increased taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products that are so clearly unhealthy. On a federal level, the proposed tax is just about one cent per ounce, so it works out to an additional 12 cents per can. Reports have stated that this could bring in as much as $20 million a year in revenue, directly funneled to the health care reform efforts. That amount, though, falls drastically short of the amount needed for health care reform, and skeptics are critical of the efficacy of such a tax.

By itself it would probably not really directly impact health care costs because there are so many other foods in addition to pop that has had an impact on the increase in obesity in the country,” said political science professor Don Vermillion. “If you really want impact on health care you would probably attack not just pop but snack foods in addition. Also, the Centers for Disease Control talks about how it’s not just food and drink we have a problem with but lack of exercise, which impacts obesity and health care costs.”

If there was a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages – including Gatorade, Vitamin Water and sodas – would it change your drinking habits? Or would you cut back in other areas? Don’t forget, water is free, and the best thing you can drink for your body.

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