In a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers have concluded that imposing higher taxes on soda and other sweetened beverages will:

  1. Generate a lot of money for government
  2. Have minimal effect on weight loss for the middle class and,
  3. Have almost no weight loss effect on either those consumers in the highest and lowest income brackets.

Regarding the tax income side of the equation, the researchers estimated that if the federal government were to impose a sales tax that raised the price of sugar sweetended beverages (SSBs) purchased by 20 percent, this would generate about $1.5 billion per year in tax revenue in the U.S.;

If they imposed a tax that raised prices by 40 percent, this would generate $2.5 billion per year, at a cost to the average household of about $28.

And what would America’s soda drinkers get for their $1.5 to $2.5 billion?

According to Dr. Finkelstein et al, results of the study showed that due to the high likelihood of consumers switching from SSBs to other beverages, the effect on total calories consumed would be negligible.

A tax that raises SSB prices by 20 percent generates a daily average reduction of 6.9 calories. Over the course of a year, this equates to a weight loss of no more than 0.7 pounds per household member.

A 40 percent tax would reduce daily calories by 12.5 calories and generate annual weight losses of up to 1.3 pounds per person per year.

The researchers also found that nearly all of the weight losses were generated from middle income groups.

“Higher income groups can afford to pay the tax so they are unaffected, and lower income groups likely avoid the effects of the tax by purchasing generic versions, waiting for sales, buying in bulk, or by other cost-saving strategies,” Finkelstein said.

However, he notes that there may be a secondary benefit of the tax, even for lower income households, if the revenue is used to fund obesity prevention efforts.

Hmmmm, now that may be an idea.

The tax itself may be ineffective in reducing obesity, but if it funds more effective weight loss programs, we may be on to something.

Of course, it still means a new federal tax of between $1.5 and $2.5 billion.

And no one likes new taxes.

But, what if instead of a new tax, the government were to reduce/eliminate the subsidies they give to the farming industry which cause the price of high fructose corn syrup and traditional sugar to be artificially low?

And what if they took all of that corn syrup/sugar subsidy money and redirected it towards healthier food choices and public parks and walkable neighborhoods and public school phys ed programs and…?

What we would/could end up with is:

  • Soda being sold at fair market prices
  • Junk food being sold at fair market prices
  • Healthy food being sold at artificially lowered prices
  • Greater access to healthy lifestyle choices
  • More livable neighborhoods
  • Healthier children
  • Reduced national obesity
  • and No New Taxes

So, what do you think?

Soda taxes or a repeal/reduction of the pro-junk food agriculture subsidies?