The Soda Tax

It doesn’t rank all that high on our list of tax problems.  Maybe you don’t even know you’re paying it.  But at least 35 states already impose taxes on sugar-sweetened sodas.  Soda is believed to be one of the reasons we’re so fat here in the United States.

Tu can eat todos los donuts you quiero, pero tu better not wash it dowño con un 16oz beveragado!

~ Miguel Bloombito (via Twitter)

Until now, the American Medical Association (AMA) hasn’t taken any official position in the soda tax debate.  However, they are expected to put it to a vote this week at their annual meeting in Chicago.  Is there even any question which side they will take on the issue?  My mom never let me eat dessert before dinner, and I don’t think the AMA would pass up an opportunity to take a stand against soda.

If a soda tax is effective, it won’t be in its direct deterrence of soda drinkers.  At a rate of one or two cents per ounce, it would hardly make a difference to most soda addicts.  The effectiveness of a soda tax depends on how soda tax revenue is spent.  If the revenue is spent on programs aimed at curbing obesity, then it could make a significant difference.

One particular obesity program that I think makes sense involves improving access to good cold drinking water at schools and in public places.  Sometimes people are just thirsty and need something cold to drink.  If you put soda in front of them, they’ll drink it.  But if there’s water, they’ll drink that too.  Why is it that public water fountains (the kind typically found in schools and parks) usually produce either warm water or none at all.  And when they do work, the water pressure is normally so weak that you can get little more than a sip.  We should have the technology to build high-quality water fountains these days; ones that actually work.  And maybe a soda tax could help fund this sort of thing.

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