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Would a Soda Tax Help Obesity?

tax on sugary drinksWhile I’m still on vacation, I thought you might enjoy this piece I wrote for The Tax Impact. I’d love to hear your thoughts about taxes on soda or so called “sin” taxes.

A tax on sugary drinks could become reality for Connecticut residents if House Bill 5461 is passed. The proposed bill seeks to add a one-cent-per-ounce tax on beverages like soda, energy drinks, juices, and other drinks with a high amount of sugar. Now amended to only include soda, the bill is still pending. With half of Americans consuming sugary drinks every day, and teens and young adults drinking more sugar than any other age group, would higher prices on drinks reduce sugar intake and lower obesity rates, or does this tax go too far?

Battling Obesity

Proponents of taxing sugary drinks point to the success of other “sin taxes” on items like alcohol and cigarettes. The majority of money raised from the proposed tax would go toward obesity education. With over two-thirds of Americans now overweight or obese, supporters of the bill agree that educating the public on better health would yield positive results. Adding a tax could help raise consumer awareness on the health implications associated with sugary drinks. It may also make buyers think twice before choosing a high-calorie soda over a healthier alternative.

While supporters of this bill see it as a way to raise revenue, opponents feel adding a tax isn’t the right way to fund obesity education. Instead of implementing a tax to curb the sale of sugared soda, a compromise would be to offer wellness incentives for people who maintain a healthy weight and participate in an exercise program. Healthy lifestyles reduce overall state spending on health care. There are also a number of public health organizations that are seeking to fight obesity and could offer funding for awareness programs without having to raise taxes.

Cutting Sugar Consumption

The proposed tax on soda would increase the cost of standard-sized soda bottle by 20 cents. Opponents say that this amount is not enough to lessen soda purchases, but a similar tax bill passed in Mexico last year shows different results. Read more at The Tax Impact.


Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/artzenter

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I don’t think it would make a difference for people on a whole just love soda and while consume regardless. Not trying to sound like a old lady, but I know I am….This is just another scheme for the government to pocket more money for they know Americans on a whole are addicted to sugar. Like cigarettes they will still purchase it.

    • I agree, and I think most people can have a soda from time to time and have no ill affects. It’s the kids who get 500 to 1000 calories or more from soda each day while getting less and less exercise that worry me. We should do a better job of raising awareness and promoting physical activity rather than just raising prices in my opinion.

  2. I don’t know if it would change drinking habits, especially since all the other high sugar drinks were cut from the bill. That said, I’ve also changed somewhat in my take on something like this since my dietary changes over the past 15 months where I’d be open to the idea of something like this. The big problem I see though is if it would really be used for obesity awareness & if it would be able to keep people away from drinking similar amounts of juices and the like and really result in little to no positive progress. It’d also be interesting to see what would happen to consumption of diet soda as that is supposedly as bad, if not worse, than regular soda.

    • If the government really wanted to draw attention to sugary drinks, then juices or other flavored drinks would be taxed as well. I do think juice is mildly healthier than soda because of the acids and such, but too much of any sugar is not a good thing. Maybe offering tax incentives for being healthy would be better than adding taxes on certain products.

  3. I think, like all tax-based incentives or disincentives, that it will have a real effect, but that individual consumers will probably be not all that acutely aware of it changing their behavior (or at least won’t after some period of time). Even if that means buying a couple less cans of soda a month though not cutting out the habit completely.

    • I’m not sure 20 cents a can stops anyone from buying a soda, but maybe drawing attention to the fact that it is not a healthy choice might.

  4. Just one more way for the government to 1) get more of our money and 2) control our behavior, diets, thoughts etc. I’m sick of the government telling me what to do in every aspect of my life which is not a power granted it in the Constitution. Besides, I buy only diet soda. Is that taxed as well? What about things sweetened with sugar substitutes? Do they get taxed as well. Will we behaving daily weigh-ins as Michelle has ordered day cares to do for our children? This has nothing to do with health. That is just a smokescreen to disguise another money/power grab by our government. Next they’ll place extra tax all food except lettuce.

    • I believe that is a huge argument against taxing certain foods or products. I have no problem with people buying whatever they want, but obesity is killing us, literally. There should not be 13 year old type 2 diabetics, but I see more and more of those as the years go on. I’m not sure a tax is the answer, but awareness needs to be raised somehow.

  5. I’m a fan of things like this. If your habits put you at high risk of having a chronic health condition later in life, which may well end up with your healthcare being subsidized by the government, a tax makes sense. In my ideal world, things like cigarettes and soda would just be flat out illegal. I don’t think people quite understand how terrible they are for you, even in “moderation”.

    • I feel that way sometimes, but where do you draw the line? Should we also outlaw red meat, white bread, and beer? I think unless everyone agrees to eat for nutrition only, we always have choices of healthy vs easy or what tastes good at the moment. It’s very easy to say, “Let’s outlaw cigarettes”, but what about all the people who depend on that industry for a living? What do you do with those people out of a job? I think what you want to do to your body is your business, but I do think if you are going to take state or government assistance, you should not be able to purchase things like alcohol or cigarettes. Those expenses should be deducted from your monthly stipend.

  6. Nope, I don’t think it would. Historically, a new tax has never been cause for social change. Actually, taxes tend to have the opposite effect 🙂 Definitely interesting to think about, though.

    • I don’t know that a tax does much by itself, but a tax plus awareness and education might make people consume less sugar over time.

  7. Soft drinks are not healthy. Most are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup which has been linked to obesity and diabetes. In fact, HFCS is found in just about everything you’d buy at a fast food restaurant.

    Why? It’s a dirt cheap why to add sweetener and extend shelf life. Why is it so cheap? Because we subsidize corn farms.

    Our government gives our farmers about $10 billion to corn farmers every year so they can produce more corn than we need. They then sell the corn at artificially low prices.

    They spend our money to make corn cheap. Now they want more of our money to make soft drinks more expensive.

    Does anyone else think this is incredibly stupid?!?

  8. I think it would affect the number of buyers of people. Of course, this includes money which they care about. Increasing the tax means there’s something that will change. Based on other similar issue like that of cigarettes, this has produced good results. Hope this will also do to soda.

    • It was really fun and I’m so glad we went. That week before was so busy we were almost wishing we hadn’t scheduled anything, but it was all good in the end.

  9. I’m intrigued to see that study on Mexican consumption. I think a tax on added sugars is not necessarily a bad thing, although I very much doubt much of the money earned would go to obesity education. I’d rather see the lawmakers get the courage to say “This is bad, we’re making it cost more because we want you to stop drinking it” rather than try to justify themselves by earmarking the money for certain plans.

    • I think it’s kind of like legal marijuana. Using tax money for drug education for something you’ve legalized is kind odd, but I guess if people are going to do it, might as well tax it. You can always choose to opt out if you don’t want to spend the money.

  10. Well, given how raising the cost of cigarettes has stopped all people from smoking… Nah, a tax won’t help. People will grumble about the additional cost, and then they’ll keep paying it.

    • I don’t think any tax could completely stop consumption, but whether through taxes or education, smoking rates have declined over the years. I believe people would still buy soda, but they might think twice about it’s health value. I grew up in Kentucky, and we were given soda from as long as I remember and no one thought anything bad about it. I’m not usually in favor of extra taxes, but it certainly would raise awareness.

  11. There is so much sugar not only in soda drinks, but also in juices, so tax law would be really worthless in this case.

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