A Simple Soda Tax Could Cut America’s Health Care Tab By $17 Billion


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Americans love guzzling their sports drinks and soda, but getting every state to slap a one cent tax on the beverages might be a stretch.A new study published in the journal Health Affairs posits that taxing one-cent per ounce on sodas might cut consumption by as much as 15 per cent for Americans 25 to 64.

We drink 13.8 billion gallons of the sweet stuff each year which comes out to 70,000 calories or 45 gallons per person.

The team, led by Columbia University’s Claire Wang, estimates the tax would shave $17 billion off related health care costs and boost America’s revenue by $13 billion (if enacted in 2010).

The tax could also sidetrack our diabetes and obesity epidemics, as the drinks are linked to both. The authors explain:

“Over the period 2010–20, the tax was estimated to prevent 2.4 million diabetes person-years, 95,000 coronary heart events, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 premature deaths, while avoiding more than $17 billion in medical costs. In addition to generating approximately $13 billion in annual tax revenue, a modest tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could reduce the adverse health and cost burdens of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.”

More than a dozen states levy a soda tax, just not at the rate proposed here. Soda taxing is a hot-button topic, much like obesity and cigarette smoking. But whether such a tax would cut consumption remains unclear. A 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Public Medicine found that such taxes would be “too small” to cut consumption, while “the revenues are not earmarked for programs related to health.”

The American Beverage Association offered a different take: “This paper is nothing more than another attempt by researchers and their supporters who have long advocated discriminatory taxes on beverages to promote a beverage tax, which will have no impact on public health. Consumers do not support these taxes and recognise them for what they truly are – a money grab to raise revenue, as noted by the authors themselves.”

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