Tax Sugary Soft Drinks

The federal government should help finance the expansion of U.S. health coverage by taxing products, such as sugary soft drinks, that contribute to obesity and other chronic health conditions. Pro or Con?

Pro: Add the Tax. Delete the Pounds

A tax on high-sugar soft drinks would help pay for health-care reform that ensures all Americans have regular access to doctors and slows health-care cost growth. It also should improve Americans’ health.

In April, The New England Journal of Medicine reported that the average American consumes nearly three times as many high-sugar soft drinks as he or she did a few decades ago. Roughly half of teenage boys drink more than two six-packs of soft drinks every week, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This has helped drive up the nation’s obesity rate. U.S. children aged 6 to 19 are three times as likely to be overweight as they were in 1970.

Americans’ growing thirst for sugary drinks has increased both the prevalence of illnesses like diabetes and heart disease and the nation’s health-care costs. In fact, increasing obesity accounted for about a quarter of the growth in real per capita health spending between 1987 and 2001, according to an Emory University study.

A tax on soda, heavily sweetened "sport drinks," and similar products would reduce obesity and its related costs by discouraging consumption. Admittedly, it would hit poorer people harder than the wealthy ones when measured as a share of their income. But poorer people would benefit the most from the universal health coverage the tax would help pay for, since they’re much more likely to be uninsured. And people who buy fewer sugary drinks because of the tax would reap health benefits.

For these reasons, the tax should be one of the revenue increases and spending reductions Congress adopts to fund health reform.

Con: Just Another Unneeded Infringement

Fat cats apparently are not the only Americans who may see their tax bills go up.

To finance President Barack Obama’s proposed health-care reform initiative, which may cost as much as $1.5 trillion over 10 years, Washington is considering a tax on sugary soft drinks that supposedly contribute to the modern sin of obesity.

This would not be a first. Federal excise taxes were levied on soft drinks during World War I and briefly at the start of the New Deal. Several states have tried it on their own as well, but soft drink taxes have been abolished in all but two: Arkansas and West Virginia.

Saying soda is "one of the most harmful products in the food supply," as one health activist recently put it, casts the proposed tax as one with a positive effect: nudging consumers toward healthier lifestyles.

But soft drink sales have been declining for the past nine years without such a tax. And obesity rates in the two states that do tax soft drinks are among the nation’s highest.

Singling out the consumers of some products to finance a health-care plan the President says will benefit all Americans is fiscal discrimination at its most brazen. The closer the U.S. moves toward a single-payer health system, the more pressure there will be to tax any product that anyone, anywhere, plausibly can argue is detrimental to one’s health. Today it may be soda. Tomorrow it could be ethnic food, coffee, bacon and eggs, hot dogs, and red meat.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Reader Comments

TR

You don't need to increase the tax on sugar to attain more money for health care.

Just get ride of the subsidy on corn. (http://www.grist.org/article/philpott7/)

Yes, this will drive up the price of corn syrup (a key sugar for soda, etc.) to its actual cost, reduce the consumption of sugar, and free up cash for health-care...without changing the tax burden.

By the way, study after study shows single payer health-care cuts costs out of the system (overhead cost decline), so you pay less overall.

Perhaps we have some red meat, bacon, and egg subsidies that can be shifted to health-car too? Are you willing to pay the real costs of these foods. Mr. Shughart?

ffn

I do not drink soft drinks at all, so this doesn't directly affect me, but JunkFoodScience.com has shown that there are no credible studies supporting a connection between taxes on soda and obesity.

Further, nutritional recommendations change drastically over the years (including the USDA food pyramid), leading many to question whether nutritional recommendations have much usefulness.

Since the government imposed nutrition guidelines in the late 1970s, the average weight went up. What is "politically correct" this year, and incentivized through taxes, could prove disastrous in the future when the latest food recommendations end up wrong again.

Michael Wong

I'm all for this sugary soft drink tax. This is a brilliant idea helping to whip us into shape, hence saving an enormous amount on health care.

Senseless

Raise your hand if you think you have ever paid a different price for a sugared drink vs. a sugar-free. Anyone? The know-nothings in the Obama Administration who propose this are clueless about how pricing works. From vending to package stores to grocery stores, the sale price of a sugar drink is exactly the same as the equavilent sugar-free (not to mention the same as a plain water). So taxing sugar drinks (let's say at 10%) will not have the desired effect of increasing the cost of those alone. It will simply increase the cost of all sodas by 5% or so. Call a pig a pig--this is simply another tax that Obama wants to justify his massive, massive, massive (repeated for emphasis) spending plan. Just say no to tax and spend.

I myself

Mr. Marr suggests that this tax "should" improve Americans' health. How does he account for the other factors that contribute to childhood obesity, such as the elimination of physical education programs across the country? Physical education was never optional when I was in school, but now, in the era of political correctness, we pander to the kids that don't want to feel bad exercising in front of everyone else. Seems like until exercise is part of the equation, laying the blame on just one sugary thing among many is naive at best.

Ghost_xTCx

Seriously? Go tax something that kills--like alcohol and cigarettes. Don't tax soda. It may be that teenagers drink too much. But look at all the deaths per year from alcohol and cigarettes.

Count Me Out

Don't worry folks, I'm already working on building an illegal soda fountain in my basement. Soon I'll be shipping bootleg cola to speakeasy vending machines across the land! Those G-men and revenue agents will never stop me.


Really, I'm not terribly surprised. Obama seems hell-bent on resurrecting every bad policy from presidents past. First he's brought us Wilson's war socialism then Carter's ham-fisted foreign policy (with a dash of his own amatuerish charm). Maybe next we'll get Nixon-era wage and price controls. Hmm, who could handle such a thing? I know, he'll appoint a pay czar.


A car czar, a pay czar, a drug czar, a man-caused disaster czar, a health czar, and Barry can be the czar of czars.

BK

Look to Norway. Here the taxes are high on products like soda and sweets, and consumption per person is much lower than the in the U.S. The obesity rate is far lower as well. In order to get this effect, the tax needs to have a dramatic impact on the price to consumers--just a few percentage points of difference in price will make no change in consumption.

Maria

If it would be beneficial for our health, then I think there is no problem with that.

RR

Totally agree with "TR" above. Reduce subsidies on not so healthy food groups and increase on healthier ones at the agricultural level. This incentivizes moving away from a corn heavy agriculture, which appears to have far reaching negative side affects (falling prices for corn, cheap HCFS). Educate the masses about the existence of better food groups and how to cook them at home for their families.

sweet

I understand the need for taxes and the need for health care but, I think that Obama's administration is looking in the wrong places.

Sure Americans are fat but, whose fault is that? No one but our own. I drink one 12-ounce can of Coke about every day, but I also do about 20 minutes of exercise every day. I am very health and happy. I am not a believer in universal health care, because I think people should carry their own. Help is important to those who need it, but there are too many people that abuse the power.

Finally, if they want to stop obesity in America, tax the fast food restaurants and liquor companies and provide gym memberships to Americans. Then people really can't keep blaming others for their weight.

Glenn

Forget the soft drink tax. Let's go after the political elite class. Any time an appointed or election official is in office longer than they were in private life, there should be a very heavy tax surcharge put on their income.

TT

Great idea. Economics at its simplest, tax what should be consumed less. Hopefully the tax is sizable enough.

random

Those who want to attribute the sugar tax to Obama or his cabinet seem to forget that this idea has been floating around since 2002 and no one in the current administration ever proposed it.

And for good reason too. Most Americans would just pay the tax and drink as much as they want. Economists tend to find that when you put a price on a bad health habit, it actually provides a justification for it. For example, if you smoke and pay taxes on your habit, next time someone points out how unhealthy it is, you're likely to say that because you pay the extra taxes and know it, you're making your own decision.

From a medical standpoint, saying that just drinking less sugary cola is going to help with the obesity epidemic is way overselling the program's benefits. Obesity is a combination of the overall diet and tends to be caused by overeating unhealthy calorie dense foods in portions that are way too big. Sugary soft drinks with empty calories are like the dollop of whipped cream on a 20 oz. chocolate shake. Take it away and there's more than enough calories left to expand any waistline.

Instead of trying to tax and police food, we should figure out why Americans know that the nation has an obesity problem, spend tens of billions a year to combat, it and ultimately accomplish little or nothing at the end of each year in trying to stem it.

kelly p

Ration food to obese local, state, and federal workers and politicians. Instant health for everyone.

Manuel J.

Whatever food you tax, the issue remains the same. Generally speaking, those who want to consume foods such as soda, will do so, no matter what the tax or the consequences.

A perfect example is cigarettes. Even with the significant cigarette tax, and without a second thought, thousands of people under 40 join the ranks of the cigarette-consuming population every year. As a result, these individual will knowingly experience the resulting ailments and untimely deaths.

Sick of Taxes

Hell, let's tax everything under the sun because living eventually leads to death. The Communists running the U.S government think it's fine to take half of a dead person's wealth--like a vulture eating the guts out of a carcass. Why not take all of a living person's wealth as well? Taxing soda is another cigarette taxing debacle--it's never enough.

Paul R

Tax, tax, tax. I'm very tired of the government trying every scheme under the sun to get more money. This product is either safe and legal to consume or it's not. If something is bad for consumers, pull it from the market altogether and fine the manufacturers. If it's legal and safe, leave it the hell alone and let us enjoy it.

Clueless Morons

Obesity may be a common health problem of Americans, but only clueless morons believe using government taxes on sugary soda is an effective solution to changing individual behavior on getting obese.

Once upon a time in America, individuals were free to make choices and reap the benefits or suffer the consequences. Now, the ruling elite know what's best for us, and they will wield the government's power to prove it.

A tax on soda is nothing more than a new source of money for politicians. If anything, it will be the beginning of taxing any food considered "unhealthy" by health fanatics. Health care costs will not be reduced by any such tax. They will continue to spiral upward until individuals pay medical costs as individuals.

Christian

@TT--Wake up. People that say they are OK with any taxes--even cigarette taxes--are thinking only about themselves. Where is the choice of others? Where is the choice of smokers, beer drinkers, high-fructose sipping and high-fat snack food eaters? You know what? If you don't want something, don't consume it but don't try to tell others what they should or should not do and try to justify taxes because is better for them. You know what is better for everyone? Freedom. You don't care because they are not hiking the taxes on something you care or like yet. What will you do then? It will be too late--let me tell you that much.

TOM W

Not a chance of success. The sugar lobby (you know the one that finances all those bogus "studies" showing sugar substitutes are unhealthy), will never allow it. The sugar cartel is more powerful than even Jimmy Carter's Georgia peanut cartel.

hardmanb

Why not a tax? It would be "for our own good."

Let's just tax the obese by poundage. It would reduce everyone's health costs, and help the obese.

Let's tax speeders, those who cause accidents, and who don't buckle up. It would save everyone money and discourage such anti-social behavior.

Ashlee

Taxing sugary soft drinks is a con. Americans know why they are obese and choose to do nothing about it. It's not soft drinks that are making more and more Americans overweight and health care costs go up. It's their overall unhealthy dieting and eating habits and their lack of no exercise in their life.

More and more children are becoming overwieght due to lack of physical activity. Today children are consuming more calories and not burning them off. Instead of engaging in physical activities and outdoor activities, they are being allowed to just stay inside and do nothing but sit. They are just sitting around the house and watching way too much TV or playing video games or watching TV all the time. Children aren't moving around and being active anymore because no one is making them. We are hurting our own children's lives by not teaching them how to eat healthy and exercise.
Adults are obese because they are just plain lazy. They don't take the time to exercise. They just make excuses for why they can't exercise or why they don't make time to exercise then complain about their weight.

It's not just sugar that makes people obese. It's a combination of overeating and no exercise.

Taxing sugary drinks isn't going to change anything. People are still going to buy it and as much as they want. The government does not need to tax things they deem unhealthy just to fix the American's problems. It's the job of each and every one of us to fix our problems ourselves. If a person is obese, they should watch their calorie intake, eat healthier, and exercise. We need to stop being lazy.
Who's the one that said sugary drinks causes obesity anyways? I drink alot of sugary drinks everyday(6 cans of soda and 3 cups of coffee) and don't exercise and I'm not overweight.
The government can't solve everyone's problems. People who think that are being dishonest with themselves. The goverment has ruined this country and put it so far in debt. Their soluton is to tax anything and everything to make the American people pay for the government's overspending problems.

Wasn't the purpose of taxing the h*ll out of tobacco products to pay for the cost of healthcare anyways? Tobacco prices have went up over 50% to suppoively pay for healthcare so why does the government want to raise taxes on other stuff? Why is it that the American people think raising the taxes on what we eat and drink is going to help healthcare? Did raising tobacco do anything but put more money in our governments pocket? No. All it's going to do is make more people homeless and raise the starvation rate in America.
Most Americans today can barely afford to live now. Most people live paycheck to paycheckk and have just enough money to pay their monthly bills now. Raising taxes isn't the American way.
ISN'T AMERICA SUPPOSED TO BE "THE LAND OF THE FREE" AND A DEMOCRACY?
Are people really that blind to what the American government is really trying to do to this country?

Rich P

There is something to the idea that taxpayers who engage in health-problem prevention, such as through diet, should pay a lower tax relating to health care as compared to those who avoid such prevention. A tax on soda may not be the perfect solution, but it's a brainstorm going in the right direction.

William Shughart

Reply to TR and other supporters of a tax on sugary soft drinks:

Most medical costs are private costs, not social costs. It is only because of government’s growing involvement in financing health care that new "sin" taxes to control consumption behavior are even on the table.

Tariffs on imported cane sugar are the chief reason that prepared foods are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. (The U.S. price of cane sugar is twice the world price owing to trade protectionism.) Reducing that import tariff is a better policy option than taxing HFCS.

Even if you think that Americans consume too much HFCS, do you really want to encourage them to consume more aspartame and other artificial sweeteners? What are the long-term health consequences of that?

Overindulging in anything can contribute to obesity, including otherwise healthful food and drink. Where does one draw the line? The answer is that the line will be drawn by politicians who cannot distinguish junk science from peer-reviewed science and will be swayed by lobbyists representing suppliers in the food chain and other interested parties, including people who want their medical bills to be paid by somebody else, especially poor folks, who bear the burden of any consumption tax.

FED_UP

The federal government should get out of health care altogether with the exeception of the VA. State hospitals should be opened again for the needy. The price of health care has skyrocketed for everyone since the Feds started paying medicare and medicaid. The docs pad the bills and the prices go up for everyone.

I am sick and tired of the government trying to meet everyone's needs and paying for deadbeat's mcmansions. The bill is soon coming due for all this madness and the price will be inflation and a US debt default.

levi

Tax sugary drinks, tax alcohol, tax cancer sticks, legalize and tax weed, end corn subsidies.

Jason

Liberty trumps health. That's why we send so many to die in war. War is unhealthy too, but we've done it to protect liberty. I'm all for healthy people and a healthy nation, but this is an issue of personal responsibility. I'm all for a solution but not one that has my neighbor trying to legislate me into doing what they think I should do. Liberty first.

Hank Cardello

Engage Food Corporations to Fix Obesity

The only purpose for taxing soft drinks is to increase government revenues. Studies show that such taxes won't make a dent in obesity, even at the rates cigarettes are taxed.

To fix obesity means one thing: unstuff Americans by lowering the calories--regardless of the source. Given the ineffectiveness of government programs, such as nutritional labeling and the food pyramid guidelines, to ameliorate the obesity problem, the best way to once-and-for-all solve this crisis is to incent the food industry with tax breaks to lower the number of calories sold to consumers.

Paul Blake MH

Hmm, I really did not care how high the taxes went up on cigarettes, so why should I or anyone else care if there is a tax on a type of junk product you rarely us? But I do care when a large percentage of our population is going to need a lot of health care for the rest of their life. That is going to get into your wallet one way or another. One third of our population and climbing adds up to a lot of diseases. I know one gentleman who is obese has 5 diseases and is on nearly 20 medications; he sees the doctor approximately 3 times a month and checks in to a hospital about 4 times a year. He is on Social Security and has no personal insurance. It is really a simple numbers game, and guess who is going to lose as these kinds of numbers keep going up let alone the personal tragedy these people suffer. It is real interesting to try to write something in a postage stamp size comment box.

Roy Nadine

Saying the federal govment should tax pop is like saying there's global warming. It's all a myth cooked up by liberal elites to ruin our fabulous American lifestyles. The wife and I don't drink wines, but we like our pop, and drink plenty of it. So now the federal government wants to punish outstanding citizens like the wife and me and on account of they want us to drink wine like French people?

Jon

I fully agree with the sugar tax and it should be at a rate high enough that consumers will feel it (say 50 cents per bottle). On the same note, please tax bottled water (to encourage more usage of local water and reduce use of plastics) and junk food.

Sergey

So tax sugar, candies, cakes, chocolate? Madness...

don

If you think that the government is taxing for your health, I got a bridge and land in Florida for sale. When will people start thinking? No new taxes--we're paying for them.

kelly p

Tax citizens on their sedentary time. Force furniture manufacturers to install hiney timers in all sofas, recliners, and especially Internet surfing chairs.

Karl

Maybe we should tax stupidity. Although we'd have a bunch of broke politicians and CEOs, huh?

joeshuren

Orange juice and apple juice have more calories than Coca-Cola per ounce. It is not the calorie density that has increased; it is the portion size. The body sees little meaningful difference between various sugars. Consumption of all beverages except milk has increased along with obesity. Any Pigout tax to reduce beverage calorie intake would have to impose a big penalty on everything except plain water.

JustMe

I am probably pro raising taxes on these drinks since we already highly tax other unhealthy substances that are non-nutritive, i.e. cigarettes. I would find it useful for state governments to remove these sugary drinks as allowable items for Food Stamps. My husband lost his job a couple of years ago and I was astonished and sad that pop was an allowable item. What in the world? Maybe if other reforms are made, we won't have to heavily tax the drinks. They just shouldn't be as available. We already can't buy them often because they are so expensive.

JustMe

Besides, if you look at diet vs. full sugar soda, you will find that diet pop often creates more substatial weight gain because of its effect on hunger. Either way, it's a personal decision. People will buy it if they want it. I'm going to change my first reasoning, and say no to higher taxes. The government should control what needs to be controlled. I still say Food Stamps shouldn't buy soda though--unless it's baking soda.

Weiwen Ng, MPH

I don't know which studies Hank is citing. There is uncertainty over whether consumers would substitute other sugary foods for soft drinks. However, a soda tax would help at least somewhat, and I don't think anyone can say that it definitely won't make a dent in obesity.

Laws and taxes are the price of civilization. It might be a personal responsibility issue if 10% of the country were obese (the rate is about 33%). But it's not, and we all pay directly or indirectly for the health-care costs associated with obesity.

m.r.

Tax or no tax, there are too many convenience, overpriced food products that have too many calories and too much salt, sugar (fructose), etc., that many people consume too much of. Also included: fast food and restaurant meals. A little of the above may do no harm, but as a steady diet of many who also don't exercise much, can result in health problems that might otherwise be avoided. Education and persuasion of the public is needed. A tax on junk food should not be ruled out as it will also pay for higher public health costs these consumers incur.

anund babajee

I personally do not think a tax on the sugary beverages (soft drinks) will have much efffect on the obesity rates whether it be now or in the future.

If such tax is to be of any usefulness it ought be imposed on all sugary products and all fatty products as well, which will be completely absurd.

A person is free to buy and consume food commodities. When it becomes dangerous, when people have no control over how much they are eating or drinking, when one looks at an average American serving of food, it is humongous.

Squeezebox

Tax all foods. You can go overboard on potatoes just as easily as on soda pop. Taxation has no effect on behavior. Just ask big tobacco.

HB

If we tax tobacco, why not sugary drinks or saturated fats? Yes, it smacks of "big brother," but we've got a public health crisis here.

chfromfrance

In France for instance, the government taxes powerfull cars in order to fight against the global warming. It works. People buy clean cars because they are cheaper.

I think it could be the same in the U.S. You said that the tax won't prevent people from buying sodas. But if people want to buy cell phones, cars, baseball game tickets, and so on and so far, they wil try to reduce their spendings. Do you prefer 100 Coc. C... or a ticket for the Redsocks?

I agree that is not the panacea but everything needs a beginning : it could be the beginning of a better way of eating.

Lee Campbell

Bad idea. I believe the government should not assume responsibility for your health (or for healthcare) in the first place. Let's get the government out of our lives, even if it's just the government trying to influence our diet. "Live free or die" could be slightly updated for modern times to, "Live free and die." "Free" is the important part to me.

askhow

Absolutely. While we're at it, let's tax bread, milk, coffee, meat, fruit, air, water, street usage, grass, going to church on Sundays, to the beach during the summer. There's no limit to what can be taxed. There should be no limit to taxation. Yes to Big Brother!

Ken

Don't tax the product--tax the method it is marketed. I say put taxes on ad dollars spent promoting these products to me, and put huge taxes on ad dollars spent promoting them to children.

Right now, it seems there is no limit to what they will do to get a kid's meal sold.

gunnarmountain

We need taxes to pay for our goverment to run. Like it or not, it can't run on thin air. Since we have lost many tax revenues from the previous president's signings, we as a country need ways to find monies.

It would be great to turn things around by just reversing those signings in tax reductions to some of the people making a little more money then the rest of the country, think it was $250,000 and under that got the tax reduction during Bush's years. Well that tax reduction is responsible for 33% of the deficit we are in. We never replaced those taxes with other monies, but we spent even more, ie Iraq.

Unfurtunitly, the people that would have been taxed and making that money during Bush's time has shrunken in number. Even if Obama taxed that bracket now to "catch up," the amount would not be equal to the numbers we could have gained during Bush's years because the number of people in that tax bracket has shunken.

So where as a country do we find the monies to catch up? We do not want to wait, time is ticking, for it will only become more out of control.

I say tax the soda. We won't even feel it, but earmark it for paying off deficit only. No touching it for any other "projects"--even health care. That's when we get ourselves in trouble.

If some people cut back on soda consumption and are able to pull in their belts a bit, well great. But I highly doubt anyone will be dieting because of this tax. But we as a country will need to pull in our belts on spending and increase our taxes if we are to reduce this deficit.

xxx

I'm thin, in shape, and not obese at all. Why do I have to pay? Let those who overindulge pay these taxes. This is a load of crap to heap everyone into the same category.

Curmudgeon

I'm amazed at how quick some people are to tax the "other guy" when they don't think they'll ever be affected. Promoting and advocating taxing and passing laws to modify behavior is a dangerous path to take for any citizen who values his personal liberty. It never stops with the "other guy." Sooner or later, you'll be affected.

Obesity? Yeah, it's a sad thing, but in most cases it's lack of personal discipline, and gluttony and laziness. Why punish those who purchase such items yet maintain a healthy lifestyle?

I can show each person who advocates this kind of taxation crap how it could affect him or her. If you are alive, you have bad habits. Let's find yours and generate a tax to punish your politically incorrect behavior.

Do you use a cell phone and text in your car or in the theater? Tax you!

Do you leave your lights on at home when you leave the room? Do you leave the TV on when you aren't watching it? Regulate electricity usage and tax the offenders!

Does your family own more than one car per licensed adult? Shame! Tax your carbon footprint.

Bottom line, this kind of taxation is an infringement on personal liberties and I am amazed at those who can't understand how such laws and taxes affect them. These useful idiots take their (economic)freedom and personal liberty for granted.

chihchieh

Alright, so we probably further need taxes on read meat, fried chicken, chips, and donuts, and even on autos or elevators, called people-do-not-exercise tax.

Uppai Mappla

Excellent idea. Coca Cola, Pepsi, and their sister products should be significantly costlier than bottled water.

mike

This is the beginning--first soft drinks, then cars with engines bigger than 1.7L engine displacement, then people who set their thermostats on 75 degrees. Then taxes on cars that get fewer than 40 miles per gallon. All in the name of the greater good. My friends, I believe that we have begun down the trail of hyper government involvment in our lives.

Andre van Staden

This is such a joke. How can the rest of the world take the USA seriously if you do things like this? Okay, we all are over 18 right? You left your momma's house right? Now look after yourself. It's not the government's responsibility to check what you put in your mouth. Smoking is bad, too, but it's your life and your funeral. Leave the people be to do what they choose. Geez, this is crazy. And you people call America the land of the free? Free, my arse. Next step will be taxing if you use the toilet more than once a day.

This is not the future; they are moving backward here.

Freedom Rules

Pros - People will drink less soda when it costs too much.

Con - Fewer people drink, less revenue the government gets for its health care plan. They will have to tax something else to make up for this.

Example: Tobacco and booze has always been getting raises, because fewer Americans smoke, which in turn makes them have to raise it even higher to recover.

Taxing a product or industry in order to benefit all is not what the founding fathers had in mind to begin with. First off it is not the role of government to take care of poor/clueless people. It never should be and is why a lot of people left Europe in the first place to come here.

I do not want the government telling me what I can and can't do. By taxing higher prices on products that I want is removing my basic freedom of choice. Even if it is good for me or not it is still my choice. If I get sick from being illresponsible that is my own fault and the government should be no where around to help me to begin with as it is not their place.

I do not need nor want some person I never met that lives in Washington D.C. taking away my freedoms because they feel they know better than myself. I want my freedom to live how I want to, so long as those around me do not tread on me and I do not tread on them.

texzilla

Instead of taxing a product that has been grown from the governemnt protection of the sugar industry, how about providing citizens real incentives for getting healthy? Like cutting taxes. Cutting governemnt spending. Providing tax savings and insurance savings for healthy changes to lifestyle.

This debate continues to show the ignorance of the liberals who see evil in a Pepsi but not in a glass of orange juice. Sugar is sugar, a calorie is a calorie. Glycemic impact is glycemic impact. The real issue is the lack of exercise, particularly with youth, and with portion size as parents allow 8 year olds to sit in front of a video game guzzling Mountain Dew and eating a pound of Doritos.

rmc

Why not tax fast food, foods with over 40% of your recommended daily sodium intake, or white bread? If the government wants us to eat better, they should reduce the price of fruits and vegetables.

More sodas

So you tax it and then you slow down sales and then you slow down production of sodas, which leads to out of work! Why don't we just tax the politicians that come up with this. Take the CEOs that make $5 million a year and spread their wealth. I mean, come on, it is crazy. People ask for hope and change now. We hope that all the changes don't screw up the country.

James Duncan

According to many respected scientists, artificial sweeteners, such as Aspartame, may well be a greater long-term health risk than sugar. If prices were to end up lower for artificially sweetened drinks, then people's health could well be more seriously affected. Education on the possible dangers of both natural sugar and artificial sweeteners is what is required.

Ron

When Gitmo is empty we should send all the DC politicians there and only let them do anything that affects us about one week out of the year. The waste and stupidity that comes from these people is criminal.

Sandy

If this gets introduced as a bill in Congress, I am hoping the masses scream in a united voice, and take physical actions against those trying to put this into law. There would be no end to taxing anything deemed "unhealthy," which is anything PETA thinks. Pour sticky syrup on the steps of Congress and their other political offices until they back down. Don't tread on me. Revolt on this one, people!

Ankur

I think taxing sugary soft drinks would be an appropriate first step. But to what extent would be the real question.

Taxing to the extent that government revenues start depending heavily on "sugar tax" over time will induce inertia in government agencies to see the "sugary companies" go down. However, taxing just the "sugary soft drinks" is definitely a good move as these drinks are not the staple diet of humans (at least they shouldn't be from a health standpoint).

Discussions about taxing other "unhealthy food products" should be dealt in their own respective context. Not taking this first step for the sake of not taxing other foods like "ethnic food, coffee, bacon and eggs, hot dogs, and red meat." is just plain convoluted logic.

Jon

I agree with the goal of improving health (i.e. the cigarette tax approach), but the logistics alone should rule out this tax as unfair. What is soda? Do sodas with artificial sweeteners get taxed? What about fruit juices with higher sugar content than soda or Gatorade?

Manufacturers will find formulas to circumvent the rules.

Keith Lidlow

Isn't there an enormous invisible social tax on the so called 'bad foods' that drive our health costs? As a rational man, isn't that one of the savings that Obama looks to gain as a result of his emphasis on 'preventive health care'? The conundrum for him and any others who see the light is the backlash from those who lose if the tax is shifted to the cause. Change is threatening and it's always been easier to just say "....let them eat cake."

Pamela Ferrill

No more taxes. Give me the liberty to self-regulate my drinking consumption. Are we forgetting how England taxed Americans' tea back in the 1700s and how it helped start the American Revolution?

MZ

TR, BK; you're right on target. It's time we stop looking at illicit substances as strictly things that immediately alter mental/body functions. If the US is going to socialize medicine, then they need to democracize its financing. Buy a Coke and vote. It's paying your own way; the same way the German government pays its medical bills from its tobaco sales. The US citizens need to pay their own way, and be responsible for their own choices. We have the freedom to smoke, and if we choose that, we have the obligation to pay for the increased cost of life.

Bill Odum

Absolutely, yes. Sugar consumption in America is one of the major causes of diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, and, by the way, cancer loves sugar. The American public is so used to hearing about their right to do what they want, regardless; and the opposition political party is so skilled at taking advantage of that weakness that it is a political hard sell. But, as in tobacco, if people want to contribute to their poor health, let them help pay for their health care. Responsibility goes with liberty.

Angie H.

The cost of soda is ridiculous as it is (especially in restaurants). Soft drinks are already a major brunt of the cost of eating out. This may potentially discourage families from eating out even more, thereby hurting the restaurant business. Bad idea.

James H.

That's exactly what we need to fix our troubles, more taxes. What a laugh! I don't need the goverment to nanny me. High sugar consumption is a bad habit and a personal choice, but that's where it ends. It's not the governmet's place to save me from myself. To paraphrase congressman Ron Paul, who said it best: "Other than ensuring that companies do not engage in force or fraud to market their products, the federal government needs to stay out of the health habits of free people."

Ricky J

If the government is really concerned about the health of Americans, why don't they just subsidize the price of healthy foods. In this case, it would be Stevia or Xylitol for sugar. If people could buy healthy sugar for the same price as unhealthy sugar, they just might do it. Makes sense?

Andrea


Sugared soft drinks may be the most obvious place to tax, but like many, I think it is a misguided idea (and no, it is not Mr. Obama's, but was a product of Mr. Bush's cabinet). I support reducing or eliminating the subsidies for corn and other agricultural items, save in the case of the truly small family farmer. Have you looked at the offerings in a grocery store in a less wealthy area? The produce is appalling, if it exists at all, and many other fresh foods are already past their sell-by dates. Usually the only decent offerings are canned and prepackaged foods--and these come with a healthy dose of sugar in many forms (look for "-ose" endings in the ingredients list). When your transportation is your feet, you have no storage, and the obviously healthy choices are not there or really nasty, and even healthy seeming foods come loaded with sugar (chicken broth in cans has some sugar now).

One poster above said that obesity is due to lack of exercise and overeating--in other words, a moral or personal failing. However, one might ask why the obesity rates among the poor have skyrocketed. Not all these people are making poor choices--but the foods available to them are often poor quality.

As an example, look at my neighborhood. Most walk to the grocery store out of necessity. If I did not have a car and a bicycle, the nearest store with good produce would be over an hour one way by bus (including waiting time). If I were working two jobs, or trying to feed a family of six or seven (grandparents, parents, perhaps an unmarried sibling waiting for his/her partner to be allowed to enter the country, and kids--most of the families in my neighborhood have extended families, not quantities of kids), making that trip would be difficult. Carrying home more than two bags of groceries on a crowded bus is hard--meaning more trips in an already overstressed schedule.

The problem is not merely personal irresponsibility (that exists at all levels) or poor choices or immorality or any of the comforting single-problem stories we tell ourselves to justify how we treat the poor, and to avoid looking at the complex problem. Yes, there are people who make dumb choices, are immoral, or are gaming the system; yes there are people with new flashy cars and wide screen TVs who can't pay their bills. I do have a neighbor like that, too--renting, all new furniture, new cars, big TV, but who is in and out of work, always hurting for money, with no savings, and who thinks I am rich because I own my house and have a healthy emergency fund, but who doesn't understand why I peg out my laundry, go without AC as long as I can without causing mildew, have hand-me-down furniture, buy clothes at thrift stores, and drive a 10 year old car. No, I'm not wild about my tax dollars supporting deadbeats. But the reasons for poverty and obesity are incredibly complex and often are mutually reinforcing. No single answer will solve the problems or allow us to dismiss them--but we need to make a start. Maybe then more of the truly hardworking can start moving into the middle class. Even so, I would rather support a deadbeat if it means that somebody "deserving" also gets some help, rather than cutting off the deadbeat and the person who needs it. There are plenty of deadbeats at all levels, after all. Some are just hidden because their families have the resources to support them.

ginalo

Why is it that you can get a 2 litre bottle of soda for 99 cents but it costs more than twice as much to buy a half gallon of milk? And why is it that when it comes to recycling the plastic soda bottles, the government has to come up with the programs, rather than the soft drink industry cleaning up their mess? If the corn subsidy was eliminated, perhaps consumers would have to pay the true cost of these products. This is not free enterprise--it is corporate welfare.

Joyce

Seriously, taxing sugar is a great idea. I drink soda, and I eat candy, but I believe they should be taxed to pay for health care reform. I don't think it would change eating habits--but it would tax the main culprit contributing to obesity and poor health. It's a no-brainer.

SunMan

Most of the so-called "arguments" against the sin-tax or reducing the subsidies for corn itself, and sugar beets, and domestic sugar, come from greedy, self-interest groups.

none of your damn business!!!!

Why are people who make less than $92,000 supposed to pay this tax? It is completely rediculous. If someone wants a 20 oz. Pepsi, Coke, or whatever, then what about juice? And what about energy drinks? There are a few of them with fewer calories than a soda. This thing is just another way for them to get our hard earned money and what little we make of it. Why not leave things alone and let everyone live how they want to live? They aren't paying my bills with this tax increase and I'm pretty sure your bills aren't getting paid either. So let the "fat" people alone and do their own thing and let the "skinny" poeple do their own thing and there won't be all of this bitching, and the government can stop [screwing] over all the hard working people.

jazzmine

I am sooooo with Andrea on this one. I like do have a large exteneded family and we usually don't all go to the store because gas pricing are rising and the car is really full for all of us. But on the real, I stand 100% with Andrea.

Sick & tired

I am sick and tired of seeing all the commercials on TV about the free diabetes supplies and electric chairs that Medicare provides. Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle-related disease and excessive sugar intake is part that problem. It is a major contributor to the out of control health care costs. Heath care costs for diabetes is $250 billion a year and everyone who pays taxes or insurance premiums has to pay part of that bill. The tax may not slow the use of soft drinks, but it sure will help pay the medical bills produced by people who don't take care of themselves. I am for taxing everything that is a part of unhealthy lifestyles, not just cigarettes and alcohol. A small tax on the array of unhealthy items won't have a significant effect on the pocketbooks of people who are responsible about what they eat and will reduce health care costs for people with healthy diets.

sue

What a great idea. Maybe if soda was more expensive, parents would buy something healthier for their kids to drink.

Jon

This is just laughable. Raise taxes to cover any cost? No. Raise taxes to cover the new raise that government thugs give to themselves so they can afford the new Cadillac they need for their dog.

Edwin F. Hensel

Before the federal government taxes non-nutritive crap that Americans consume in such volume, they should "sweep their own front stoop," by removing the USDA SNAP (the new acronym for "food stamps") program's ongoing subsidy for non-nutritive crap.
It is incredible that one cannot use a federal subsidy to purchase, say, spirulina--one of the most nutritious foods on the planet--but those same subsidies are available for the sugar water that causes dental caries, obesity, and diabetes--in the most vulnerable of our citizens, the poor.

It is yet another example of our elected officials placing corporate interests before those of their employers: We, The People.

In countries with universal Medicare [SOCIALIZED MEDICINE] the government is enjoined to protect its citizens; it hurts it's bottom line if it doesn't.

In AmErIcA government is enjoined to protect Corporate Profits at the expense of its citizens.

Jazzmine

Okay, well, I for one love soft drinks. Why start taxing them? That's a bunch of bull. Obesity is not caused by what you eat--it's how you eat and what you do after you ate it. Lack of exercise--things like that. I say all this is bull.

mark

I have a idea: Let's tax internet time, too. Heck, it's hard on the eyes, causes us to gain weight. It's just bad for overall health.

liljeani

Ridiculous. Using this logic, I guess we should just add an extra tax to all junk food and all fast food restaurants.

Soft drinks don't make people fat; people make people fat.

J.S. Abner

250 years or so ago our forefathers set forth into the night to explain to a parliament that they will not be taxed and controlled, and dumped their drink of choice tea. Now we are being faced with almost the same thing. Except now they tell us it is for our health.
I also understand that buried in the verbose health care reform bill is an article that reduces premiumns for those who are below such a weight or lose weight. This is out and out discrimination. Call out the dogs and pressure hoses like was done to the blacks in Alabama. Turn them on fat people!

Is nobody standing up and protesting these infringments? "Evil prevails if good men do nothing" and one more of my favs "Government is not the solution to the proplem, government is the problem."

CarolO

Then candy bars, Twinkies, donuts, cakes, and pies should be taxed.

Also potatoes and gravy and bread since they put the pounds on, too.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

danelle, nursinguml

The plan does not include tax on diet drinks, only drinks with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or other similar sweetners, does not apply to non-caloric drinks.

danelle

We can't leave the fat people alone; they drive up the cost of health care. Obesity leads to heart disease, diabetes, and many other co-morbidities. It is a rising epidemic in our country. and we have to all be proactive to reduce the cost of health care as a nation. This means taking care of ourselves so that we do not contribute to the number of unafordable hospitilizations. get off your butt, stop drinking soda, and take care of your body!

gphx

Yeah, that's it. Let's tax sugary soft drinks. Let's not tax the drinks containing patented chemicals many believe contribute to or cause a host of serious ailments. Huh? Taxing behavior we don't like as punishment is idiocy. Far better is to reward behavior that contributes to society. Our current government seems far happier beating us with a stick than giving people carrots.

Jamie C

Finally, the Democrats are doing something good for a change. I am all for taxing sugar drinks, but I think we should tax everything that is unhealthy like candy, sweets, etc. Healthy foods cost more than sugary foods, which is not fair, especially diabetic foods. With this tax, prices of unhealthy foods will go up, meaning less intake and more intake of healthy foods, thus prices of healthy foods will go down. I hope they pass this tax soon.

me

First the Boston tea party....next, the American soda party!

casey

See we got choices. You have the right to smoke and drink sodas and juice drinks. We live in USA and we should live in freedom, not tax us to death. More jobs will be lost from this crap.

ELLD

Why have Americans become so comfortable with government control? How much control are we willing to give our government over our personal choices? If I want to smoke or drink or indulge in any other activity that could be considered, by some, to be detrimental to my health or safety it is my decision. We are adults and the majority of adults are smart enough to know when something is good or bad for our health or our children's health. Every time I turn around there is another law that has been passed for ‘my own good.’ I do not need or want to be treated like a child that has no common sense.

I believe anybody that believes TAXING Americans for something this inconsequential is going against everything this country is supposed to stand for. How long is it going to be before it is decided extreme sports, sports in schools, riding a motorcycle, a bicycle, eating fast food etcetera is dangerous for our health or safety and get a law to control that will limit how often it is allowed? Or just going all the way and make these things illegal? How long will it be until they decide walking a dog is dangerous because someone might get bitten or because people are allergic to these animals? Do these examples seem ridiculous? Well we are faced with having soda pop taxed. Supposedly for our own good. That is ridiculous yet it is being considered as a GOOD idea.

How long before it is illegal for public schools to celebrate certain holidays because a small group of people just don't believe in it and feel it is stepping on their right to their religion? Oops, that one has already happened. Last year a public school in Oregon allowed 1(yes one) parent that declared herself an atheist, to force the Christmas trees and Santa Claus decorations be taken down because it offended her sensibilities. We allow children to decide to get an abortion, a surgical procedure but we won't allow adults to decide how much Pepsi to drink! How backward is this thinking!

I love being an American and I am proud to call myself an American, but I am also disappointed, angry, saddened, and scared with the direction this country is allowing itself to be led.

Glen

I see everyone is ready for the government to tax someone else--wait til they come to your door and want to tax golf, tennis, martinis, wine, country club memberships, etc. I fought in the army to defend my right to be fat, skinny, whatever I want to be. Look at the real culprits here, the medical trade, $120 for a shot that cost them $2, $4,000 emergency room bills for an one to two hour visits. I respect a right to charge a fair rate, but when I examine my medical bill, some of the charges are robbery. They should be arrested for price gouging.

www.businessweek.com

Tax sugary soft drinks--corking.

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