USDA: The soda tax works

A new study by USDA economists concludes a 20% soda price increase would shed an average of 4 pounds in a year from the average American.

Given these reductions in calorie consumption, results show an estimated decline in adult overweight prevalence (66.9 to 62.4 percent) and obesity prevalence (33.4 to 30.4 percent), as well as the child at-risk-for-overweight prevalence (32.3 to 27.0 percent) and the overweight prevalence (16.6 to 13.7 percent).

In other words, the USDA believes we can cut America’s obesity epidemic by 3 percentage points – just by taxing soda and other sugary beverages.

As Marion Nestle points out in The Atlantic, the beverage industry knows this all very well, or it wouldn’t have spent $9.4 million lobbying Albany to kill the soda tax in New York.

Given the tax obesity imposes on everyone in the form of higher health care costs, the soda tax seems like a no-brainer, right?  We do it with tobacco and alcohol – why not soda?

Enter the slippery slope argument.  First, soda.  Next, twinkies.  Or, bacon.  Well, no one would be insane enough to mess with bacon.  But you get the idea.

The other side of the obesity problem is lack of exercise.  As a commenter has argued before here on the blog, do we tax people who don’t go to the gym?

No one likes to be told what to eat.  But as the evidence grows that obesity and overeating are a major challenge to America’s future, the soda tax proposal is low-hanging fruit.  And it’s unlikely to go away, despite the beverage industry’s mightiest lobbying efforts.

8 Comments on “USDA: The soda tax works”

  1. BRFvolpe says:

    Back when the Cuban embargo began, sugar prices skyrocketed, including soda. Club soda went up as well. Sure as shootin’, if soda is taxed, you can be sure seltzer and club soda will go up as well. Big business made the price go up without taxes, so you can be sure they’ll up the price on sugarless carbonated water along with sugared sodas that will be taxed.

  2. verplanck says:

    Look at the flipside: we subsidize the low price of fatty foods (i.e. meat) through cheap corn subsidies. By removing this form of “big gubbmint spending”, you could achieve the same results, and pay down our deficit, fund unemployment insurance, pay for wars, etc.

  3. PNElba says:

    Too bad all that fat couldn’t be harvested to help solve our energy problems.

  4. just say no says:

    check out and compare the various prices of sugar on the global market. (we manipulate it as a commodity just like the japanese do with rice.)
    accordingly our sugar consumption has increased.
    want to talk about feed corn, cows, and fastfood burgers? you’re right verplank.
    do you know that feeding cows corn for more than 120 days is so nutritionally wrong? their stomachs ulcerate for one thing….now think about those fast food burgers. we’d be better off eating the toy in the happy meal– even if it’s made in china with melamine and lead paint.

    we run things based on economic wants rather than nutritional ideals.
    in america we like cheap food. we don’t care if it’s nutritionally as rich as cardboard and car wax, just add beef flavor #17 and yellow #12 and presto- food.

  5. Pete Klein says:

    Actually, corn syrup is the major sweetener, not sugar. So just make the production of corn syrup illegal and problem is solved.
    I’m kidding. On the one hand, I don’t care and on the other hand I am sick of the government saying it wants to tax something for our own good (cigarettes) when what they really want is more money.
    Our governmental leaders have gone nuts with power. They all lie like rugs.
    Now I hear our senior senator wants devices put in all cars, I repeat all cars, so no one can drive drunk.
    Sick, sick,sick!
    America, the former land of the free and the brave is rapidly becoming the land of the willingly enslaved and the home of the coward.

  6. JDM says:

    Obama pre-inauguration:

    “I’m not gonna raise tax one dime on anyone making less than $250,000.”


  7. just say no says:

    Pete K–corn syrup’s value is derived from our manipulation of global sugar values. it is made the default choice for economical reasons.

    i’m with you – on one hand i care were being milked –
    on the other, i don’t care, and i don’t drink soda, it is basically poison in my opinion. and not just because of the sweeteners. for every 8 ounces of soda you consume you need to drink eight more eight ounce glasses of water to counter what the other ingredients do to you; (on top of your regular daily water requirement)
    having a “blow before you go” device for the car will open up the sober friend network.
    for a nominal fee you would call up our “sober- tech” to start your car for you and then you could drive it away.
    think of it as a business opportunity, no more car service required.
    ” call us, the others give lip service- we give you our breath”

    i always felt on-star is the precursor of car “big brother” anyway.

    “hello this is on-star. my computer shows that your airbags have deployed. i have called an ambulance and the police to your location. if you are not seriously injured, you have approximately 15 min. to hide the contraband before the athorities arrive. thank you for using on-star”

    ..and lastly..
    —all politicians lie, doesn’t anyone remember anything our seventh grade history teacher said?!

  8. Bret4207 says:

    I’m in the don’t care much on the health aspect, care a lot on the tax end boat. Do people have any freedom or not? Yeah, in general US residents eat way too much junk. So we’re going to tax our way to health? Can you think of a less efficient way of doing things if you expect real results? I can’t.

    It’s just another tax grab/power grab. Certain people, well meaning people, really see this as a good way to help their fellow man. That’s around 1% of the population in favor of this I guess. The other 99% see it either as a way to get more money or more power or both.

    Soda tax, tanning tax, the end of the Bush tax cuts… Yeah, no new taxes on those making under $250K. Liar.

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