What editorial writers are saying about a tax on soft drinks

A beverage tax is one idea being floated to raise money for health system reform and to fight obesity.

Posted Oct. 12, 2009.

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President Obama has said a tax on sugary beverages is worth considering, and a study in the New England Journal of Medicine says it could raise $14.9 billion a year and reduce obesity. Editorial writers are debating if a tax would be effective in raising money and in stopping people from drinking soda.

The Eeuww! Ads

New York City health experts wanted to discourage people from drinking sugary sodas and sports drinks, so they devised a stomach-churning solution. Their new "Don't drink yourself fat" commercials show drinks being poured into a glass. There is no ice, no delicate frostiness or smiling polar bears. Instead, fat globules ooze over the rim of the glass like some alien life form. If the response is "Yuck," then the ad is doing its job, city officials have decided. ... But ... the best move when it comes to soft drinks [is] a tax on sodas and other sugary beverages. The best tax would be a penny an ounce, not a nickel on every bottle or can, which could just encourage even larger bottles and cans. New York Times, Sept. 13

Hate the sin, love the health care it funds

The sacrifice seems so small and the benefits so substantial that the real shock is that the White House and congressional leaders haven't endorsed the idea [of a beverage tax]. President Barack Obama has said only that it's worth considering, but the health reform plan released ... by Sen. Max Baucus doesn't include it. Whether that's an example of the beverage industry's clout or the reluctance of Democrats to make health care reform more controversial is unclear. But given the success of cigarette taxes in stopping underage smoking, it's an idea worth exploring. Baltimore Sun, Sept. 18

Tax soda to produce health

As for the charge that soda is only one of the major factors contributing to our obesity epidemic, that's true. But the fact that tobacco use is only one of the factors contributing to cancer doesn't mean that we don't tax it for the same reason we should tax soda -- when individual people smoke too much, it has an outsize impact on the collective public health. San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 21

Weighing a soda tax

As such proposals [including beverage taxes] find support at the federal and state levels, it's important to clarify exactly what lawmakers hope to accomplish, and to create coherent policies rather than to simply tax one snack or another. True, there is no known health advantage to soda; people would be better off consuming it as a treat rather than as a basic food group, gulped by the quart cups popular at convenience stores. But the widening of the American silhouette is more complicated than the tax proposals imply, and is not yet fully understood. Los Angeles Times, Sept. 26

We don't need another sin tax

Both missions of this suggestion -- eliminating obesity and adding dollars to the government's coffers -- are great ideas, but like so many sin-tax ideas that have come and gone, it simply won't work. ... We cannot keep believing that legislating away or taxing products that contribute to obesity or other health problems is the solution. We must find ways to make healthy choices more appealing, then let businesses go to work satisfying cravings that promote health, not harm it. News-Leader (Staunton, Va.), Sept. 19

A soda tax will not slim our waistlines

It's a bit too neat to blame soda for all our problems, but it's surely no coincidence that rates of obesity, especially for young people, have steeply increased over the same time. ... Still, it's hard to imagine soda taxes so high as to directly discourage quenching our thirst with a Coke. ... No, we don't need more taxes. We need more self-discipline -- and more families rearing their children with healthy habits. Record Searchlight (Redding, Calif.), Sept. 20

Ponder a soda tax

If government can levy taxes on tobacco products to generate not only revenue but confer public health benefits with respect to smoking rates, why not apply the same principle to taxing sugary soft drinks to raise funds for health-care reform while fighting obesity? Obviously, the beverage industry has plenty of reasons to oppose the proposal, but strong advocates in the medical community make the idea one worth considering. ToledoBlade (Ohio), Sept. 21

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