I’m back on my soapbox, or in this case I’ve climbed up onto a soda crate to make my passionate plea.
Just say “NO” to a soda tax.
This morning I am watching the news on Connecticut’s WFSB, CBS affiliate. They are announcing the massive budget deficit. Connecticut is one of the states with both higher tax rates, and an income tax and yet their fiscal irresponsibility has resulted in the state having a multi-billion dollar deficit (2.3 billion to be exact.)
The governor of Connecticut is about to announce his latest budget draft which includes reducing the number of state police officers, and raiding the money state parks, such as Harness Memorial, have raised by hosting weddings. The money the parks have generated with weddings is supposed to go to upkeep of the parks so that they can, yeah, look good ensuring they’ll attract more wedding business.
In the midst of all of this angst over “how are we going to pay this out-of-control deficit, legislators are suggesting a penny-per-ounce sugary drink tax. The rationale, is the same old, “it will promote healthier citizens and help battle obesity.”
The tax is already in effect in some cities and the mixed reviews are coming in. Some claim it could make a difference in the Body Mass Indexes (BMI) of the citizens, although it’s very slight. In Philadelphia the tax isn’t paid directly by the consumers; it’s paid by the manufacturer.
Guess what the soda makers have done to cover the increased cost of bottling and wholesaling their product. Yup, they raised the price, and guess who eventually feels the increased prices? Yup again, it’s the guy buying the soda.
The soda tax has been in effect in Philadelphia since January of this year. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, after two months into the sugary drink tax supermarkets and distributors reported a 30 to 50 percent drop in beverage sales.
Canada Dry Delaware Valley is one of the city’s biggest distributors and as a result warned that it will cut 20 percent of its workforce. One franchise grocery store owner says he will lay off 300 workers this spring.
I cannot find any data supporting the health benefits of Philadelphia’s sugary drink tax. It seems as though the tax hasn’t done much to reduce consumption, just where people buy their soda. I could only find projected results. The following is from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)
“Although the impact of soft drink taxes on population weight is small in magnitude, a more complete evaluation of the effectiveness of this policy would compare a wider array of outcomes to the costs of these taxes. Reducing soft drink consumption may lead to improvement in other areas of health, including dental health (WHO, 2003). Additionally, an increase in the soft drink tax of this size would likely raise considerable revenue for the federal and state governments. The downside of the policy of increasing taxes of soft drinks is the likelihood that the tax is regressive.”
We do know for sure the tax has driven up the cost of soft drinks and cost jobs of people working in the industry. As for Connecticut, I think it’s interesting to note that the state has one of the lower obesity rates in the nation at less than 25 percent of its population. That places Connecticut at #10 on the list of lowest rates of obesity in the nation. That begs the question, “why are Connecticut legislators really asking for a sugary drink tax now?”
My opinion, for what it’s worth, is the sugary drink tax is a thinly-veiled attempt to raise some easy money in a way that will make citizens feel as though it’s in the best interest of the population. It’s presented as a feel good way to raise extra money by asserting obese people will pay more to drink their sugary drinks. It will both help to cover the costs of treating their weight-related disease and help lower BMIs.
I have more than 25 years of experience helping people lose weight. I will not argue that sugary drinks aren’t part of the problem of obesity. Of course they are, as are all ways to ingest too many calories, but it’s far more complicated than that. Many, indeed most, of the people I’ve encountered over the years didn’t gain weight because of sugary drinks.
There are better ways to help overweight citizens get healthier. They include education and incentives for making healthy changes to their lifestyles. Taxes, to be clear, are not incentives.
We should not be agreeing to paying more taxes; we should be demanding fiscal responsibility within our local, state, and federal governments.