Potential Soda Tax?

Soda tax may punish the wrong consumers

(RxWiki News) The obesity epidemic has caught the eye of many - specifically government officials who are attempting to do something about it. Some think a tax on soda could help lower obesity rates.

Soda has been deemed one factor out of many that has caused obesity rates to skyrocket. So government officials believe taxing the sugary drinks could put a dent in the obesity rates. But researchers say otherwise.

"Taxing soft drinks won't work to fight obesity."

Northwestern University says the tax on soda won't affect obese individuals. The proposal is to tax soft drinks with added sugar or sweeteners, which include regular soda, sweet iced tea and coffee drinks.

Ketan Patel, a fourth-year doctoral student at Northwestern University, says that people who are overweight or obese drink mostly diet sodas, so taxing regular soda won’t affect them. Furthermore, obese individuals like their diet soda so much, adding a few cents would probably not make them choose differently.

If there was a direct correlation between increasing tax and weight gain, then the tax could work. But there hasn't been enough research to prove this, says Patel.

Putting a tax on soft drinks wouldn't help fight the obesity epidemic, it would just punish consumers who are not overweight or obese, concludes Patel.

Patel analyzed soda prices, sales data, consumer preferences and body mass index. Patel used this data to estimate what consumers would choose if there was a potential soda tax to determine if there would be a difference in weight change.

This report was presented at a U.S. Department of Agriculture conference on food policy in Washington, D.C.

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Review Date: 
July 1, 2011