Soda Tax Pops Up Around the World
Philadelphia made news recently when it became the second city in the U.S. to impose a tax on soda. Such taxes are not just confined to the U.S. either: France, the UK, and Mexico all have a version of the tax. South Africa and the Philippines are mulling similar taxes.
The soda tax is just another example of politicians reaching into the wallets of working people. Governments are targeting low income families who are most likely to consume sugary drinks. The targets of the tax are the least able to afford the government’s greedy tax.
Why do politicians push soda taxes? They want the money. Some politicians claim that adding a soda tax will increase healthy behavior, but there is little to no evidence. In fact, there have been some studies that suggest consumers will take in more calories from other drinks than they would from soda. Yet, even more ridiculous is that after the tax, Mexicans are drinking more sugary drinks than before.
Although the soda tax has struggled to achieve its aims, it has had negative consequences. First, the tax is regressive, hitting low income families the hardest. In theory, the soda tax should decrease consumption, but what about the people who still continue to drink the beverages? This isn’t just a hypothetical either. In Mexico, low income families were the least likely to decrease their soda consumption as a result of the tax. Those who can afford the tax the least are the ones forced to pay it.
Even the avowed socialist Bernie Sanders is opposed to the soda tax. “The mechanism here is fairly regressive. And that is, it will be increasing taxes on low income and working people,” he said.
Even more damning for the tax is the reality that the homes with an obese head of household were the group least affected by the increase in price. The tax is meant to lower the consumption of sugary drinks, but it has failed to affect the group the tax targets. Instead, the tax eats up the family’s resources meaning that less money can be spent on other groceries like fruits or vegetables.
Furthermore, states are simply ignoring the clear evidence that does exist which is that taxes like this do not work. In Denmark, the tax on foods and drinks high in fat was repealed within 15 months. The state saw how the tax failed to help the people’s health and wisely scrapped the useless tax. Despite evidence showing the ineffectiveness of the tax, countries around the world are scrambling to add it.
Countries typically point to the tax as a measure to combat rising obesity rates, yet recent attempts point in a new direction. Instead of masking the tax in as a health policy, the Philadelphia tax was propped up as a measure to support education including prekindergarten, community schools, and rec centers. Even under the guise of education, nearly 20% of the revenue from the soda tax will not be spent on these measures. This new path just shows what we’ve known all along, the soda tax is just another opportunity to steal revenue from the people.
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What if a soda tax works? What if it lowers the rates of Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, and tooth decay? Thus saving Medicaid billions? Billions that could be redirected to tax cuts? We all want lower taxes. So let's get smart. Let's support policies that will save us money. Tobacco taxes have caused a 50%+ drop in smoking and healthcare expenses will accordingly plummet. Like it or not, the US picks up 50% of health care costs through Medicaid and Medicare. Americans spend $140 billion (billion!) per year treating diseases directly related to sugar and soda consumption. We are subsidizing Pepsi. Like anyone, I like a nice cold Coke. But as a tax payer I don't want to pay to treat diseases from smoking or soda--I'd like my money back, thank you. Taxing soda could work beautifully at lowering consumption and tax payer funded medical expenses. At the very least it's a clawback--we are just getting our money back that we've been spending.