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Can a ‘fat tax’ on soda help beat obesity?

03-Sep-2009
Last updated the 04-Sep-2009 at 17:36 GMT

The controversial idea of taxing sugary soft drinks to combat obesity has been brought up again this week in a report from the Institute of Medicine. But is a soda tax fair? And can it do enough?

FoodNavigator-USA.com asks its readers whether a tax on sugared beverages is a sensible way to tackle obesity.

There are those who think taxes on soda make sense, pointing to studies that have shown moderately lower obesity rates in states that tax soft drinks, and that beverages now contribute 10 to 15 percent of calories consumed by children and adolescents. Many draw a parallel with tobacco, saying that imposing high taxes has been one of the biggest factors in reducing its use, so taxing soda could have a similar effect.

Others dismiss the idea as government meddling, and argue that a tax on soft drinks unfairly penalizes responsible, healthy consumers.

The American Beverage Association, for example, dubbed the idea of a soda tax in New York as “sweeping” and “regressive” and said it was an attack on ordinary, hardworking Americans. The tax was later rejected.

Others say that it is unfair to target a single product, but the complexity of deciding which items should and should not be taxed was highlighted this week as Illinois officials said that candy with flour (like a Kit Kat bar, for example) is not candy after all, and therefore exempt from a higher tax bracket.

With US obesity rates at a record high, and the youngest generation of Americans predicted to have shorter lifespans than their parents for the first time in history, most are agreed that something needs to be done. Could soda tax be part of the answer?

What do you think?

We would like to hear your views on whether a tax on non-diet soda is a useful tool to tackle obesity.

Please send your comments of no more than 100 words to caroline.scott-thomas 'at' decisionnews.com by Wednesday September 9th, putting ‘Soda tax’ in the subject line, and including your name, location and affiliated company or organization.

We will publish a selection of the best responses, covering all angles of the debate, on Thursday September 10th.

Please note that comments will be taken as 'on the record', and the sender's name and company/organization will be published.

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