Soda Tax Target

Soda Tax Target

“The typical American consumes almost three times as many calories from sugary drinks as in the late 1970s. This increase accounts for about half the total per capita rise in calorie consumption over the same period. Remember, many of these drinks have zero nutritional benefit — unlike meat, cheese, or juice. As Kelly Brownell, a Yale researcher, says, the link between obesity and soda is scientifically stronger than the link between obesity and any other type of food or beverage.”

“The Battle Over Taxing Soda,” Davis Leonhardt, New York Times.

 

Image (“Evolution, American-Style”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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3 Responses to “Soda Tax Target”

  1. JA Says:

    [Edited for length and clarity] Politicians don’t understand that correlation does not imply causation. Likewise, politicians will cherry-pick whatever they want to make their point, regardless of whatever else might refute it.

    Your source says soda consumption is triple what it was in the late 1970’s. … soda consumption has also declined for 11 straight years, and is now 22 percent below its peak in 1998. It sounds like without any taxes at all, this problem has been solving itself for 10 years.

    Then this looks at calories from all soft drinks. It notes that total calories from sugary soft drinks went from 2.8% to 7%. … calories from milk went from 8% to 5%. Not quite as much as the increase from soda, but accounting for most of it.

    [Milk] has lots of fat and calories. Like soda, except with more fat.

    … identifying an increase in soda consumption and correlating it to an increase in obesity, while ignoring all the other things that have changed is bad science and bad politics. For example physical education programs in schools are declining, and in the last 20 years the Internet and computers have risen as a huge, sedentary time suck for an entire generation.

    So singling out “soda” while ignoring the rest of the picture … does nothing to solve the real problem: more calories in than out for most people. Picking something that is about 10% of calories in, while ignoring the other 90% as well as the entire other side of the problem, solves nothing, and it’s not even at all intuitive to me that a 12 cent tax on a can of coke would influence the people whom we’re most concerned about in any way.

  2. Mike Licht Says:

    JA writes:.. . politicians will cherry-pick whatever they want

    Guess that makes you a politician.

    Your source [the New York Times] says soda consumption is triple what it was in the late 1970’s. … soda consumption has also declined for 11 straight years, and is now 22 percent below its peak in 1998. …. without any taxes at all, this problem has been solving itself for 10 years.

    Your source is ultimately based on industry figures, as reported here. Scroll to the bottom for analysis.

    … calories from milk went from 8% to 5%. [Milk] has lots of fat and calories. Like soda, except with more fat.

    And more protein and minerals. Soda is empty calories; milk is food (though chocolate milk adds sugar and calories).

    physical education programs in schools are declining, and … the Internet and computers have risen as a huge, sedentary time suck ….

    So singling out “soda” … does nothing to solve the real problem: more calories in than out for most people.

    Pepsi’s CEO defends over-sugaring consumers by blaming them for idleness, too. Are the two of you going to institute compulsory physical activity somehow? That isn’t going to happen, so the intake end of the equation needs to be adjusted. This proposal is a simple and effective way to do it.

    it’s not even at all intuitive to me that a 12 cent tax on a can of coke would influence the people whom we’re most concerned about ….

    All the reaction and rant indicate the contrary.

  3. JA Says:

    [Edited for clarity and length, with replies inserted]

    JA wrote:The article I referenced uses a per-capita analysis. So does yours.

    ML: The CSPI press release referenced in your link does say “per capita,” but the industry study it is based on cites “total volume.” Odd.

    JA: Do you know what per capita means?

    ML: Yes. Thanks for the copyedit. I have changed the post accordingly.

    JA: You said, soda consumption has almost tripled since the late 70’s.

    ML: Actually, it is the number of calories in the US diet derived from the empty calories of sugar that has increased — up a third — largely due to consumption of sweetened drinks. The clearest description of the empirical studies upon which these data are based is here.

    JA: It could also be that people … who … genuinely want to implement solutions to address our problems, and would actually like to find a way to solve obesity and health in the next generation …

    ML: … and never propose concrete, workable alternative solutions …

    JA: … and not simply another source of revenue for the general fund … .

    ML: Agreed. That is why virtually all soda disincentive taxes restrict use of funds collected to remedy other aspects of the problem. In the original DC bill, funds collected would go towards reforming the school lunch program to add fresh foods and eliminate empty calories.

    JA: The article you originally referenced noted that “small tax changes don’t always change behavior.” The effect on the price of a single serving of soda – a can or a bottle – would be less than 10 percent, perhaps as little as 5%. The big price increase only affects larger volume purchases, where the cost per unit is heavily discounted.

    ML: The original DC bill taxed sugar drinks per ounce, adding substantially to the cost of even 12- and 16 ounce containers. Since this was written, the DC Council has simply extended the sales tax to all sweetened drinks, including diet sodas. This does not provide any real consumption disincentive. The unfortunate new bill restricts some of the tax revenue to a healthy school lunch program but lacks the demonstrated disincentive clout of our current steep cigarette taxes.

    JA: I am not seeing that kids are buying 2-liter bottles or cases of soda after school.

    Do you know if kids are getting their 2-3 sodas a day from home or from a store after school? I don’t. I doubt you do.

    ML: Since you’re getting anecdotal and personal here, yes I do. So does anyone who walks around a US inner city on a hot day. We see obese kids walking around swigging from open two-liter jugs of private-label sweetened soda and fruit punch or Gatorade. These are bought at corner stores, the only retail outlets in these “food deserts,” and they stock no alternatives.

    JA: Anyway, your response to my comment makes it clear to me that your belief in this tax is ideological, and not based on rational analysis of the problem and how we might best effect a solution.

    ML: You have commented at a length four times that of the original post yet not contributed a single practical alternative solution to the obesity epidemic. That makes something clear, anyway: opposition to well-constructed soda taxes is empty calories — I mean, rhetoric.

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