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Is a National Soda Tax On the Horizon?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday September 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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President Obama said a soda tax is “an idea we should be exploring,” in an interview with Men’s Health. He added, “There’s no doubt that our kids drink way too much soda. And every study that’s been done about obesity shows that there is as high a correlation between increased soda consumption and obesity as just about anything else. Obviously it’s not the only factor, but it is a major factor.”

It will be a fight to obtain a soda tax. As Grist points out in a recent article, there is not even one congressional bill about a soda tax. However, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent called a soda tax “outrageous.” Kent also said, “I have never seen it work where a government tells people what to eat and what to drink. If it worked, the Soviet Union would still be around.”

Some medical experts are in favor of a soda tax. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recently recommended a “tax strategy to discourage consumption of foods and beverages that have minimal nutritional value, such as sugar-sweetened beverages.”

“There are certain products which make a strong contribution to the obesity epidemic while, conversely, there is no plausible public health benefit [from them],” said Dr. David Ludwig, associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

“What better way to accomplish both lowering health care costs through obesity prevention and funding expansion of health insurance coverage than to add a tax to unhealthy foods,” said Ludwig.

“I think this would make an impact,” said Marianne Grant, a registered dietitian and health educator at Texas A&M Health Science Center’s Coastal Bend Health Education Center.

A recently released study by UCLA found that 41 percent of children ages two to eleven, 62 percent of adolescents, and 24 percent of adults drink at least one soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages a day. Adults who drink one or more sodas or other sugar-sweetened beverages a day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight. UCLA researchers called for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages last week.

In the recent New England Journal of Medicine journal, seven leading researchers proposed a one-cent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The researchers estimated that a ten percent increase in the price of sweetened beverages would lead to a ten percent decrease in consumption.

Head of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Thomas Frieden said that such a tax could be a “key tool in efforts to improve health” while still the New York City health commissioner. A one-cent soda tax would decrease consumption by 13 percent, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.


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