Health Experts say a proposed national tax on soda and other sugary drinks of 1 cent per ounce could aid the United States’ obesity epidemic, while generating $14.9 billion the first year alone.
The tax could help fund programs to prevent obesity, say a group of prominent researchers in an article in the Sept. 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The authors believe such a tax would deter people from buying non-nutritious sweet drinks, thereby helping Americans to lose weight and reduce their health risks.
The tax would increase the cost of a 20-ounce soft drink by 15 to 20 percent. Researchers suggest the increased cost would lead to a minimum reduction of 20 calories a day per person from sweetened beverages. The revenue collected would benefit individual states and the federal government.
The concept of levying a “Twinkie tax” first gained attention in 1994, when Yale University psychology professor Kelly D. Brownell made the proposal in a piece in The New York Times.
Earlier this month, President Barack Obama said such taxes could help cover the cost of overhauling the U.S. health care system.
Meanwhile, studies continue to link consumption of beverages sweetened with sucrose (regular sugar), high-fructose corn syrup or fruit-juice concentrates to obesity, diabetes and heart disease, not to mention dental decay.
One such study found that each additional serving of sugar-sweetened beverage increased the risk of obesity in middle-school students by 60 percent
In another study involving 100 high-school students, eliminating such drinks led to a significant decrease in body weight.
While the tax strategy has reduced cigarette and alcohol use, there’s no guarantee it would work with food.
The beverage industry opposes a soda tax and also disputes the connection between consumption of sweetened drinks and obesity.
“Excise taxes on soft drinks simply do not reduce obesity rates,” the American Beverage Association said in a statement issued Wednesday. “West Virginia and Arkansas are two prime examples — both have excise taxes on soft drinks, yet rank fifth and sixth highest in the nation for obesity rates, ” it said.
What are your thoughts on the proposed tax?