The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
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Taxing Soda Could Trim State Deficits (and Waistlines), Says Report

"I actually think it's an idea that we should be exploring.There's no doubt that our kids drink way too much soda.” — President Barack Obama to Men’s Health


Even as 48 states and the District of Columbia are facing grim
budget shortfalls, only 25 states currently impose special taxes on
soda and other beverages with added sugar, and all of those taxes are
very small. And according to a new paper
from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, states could
generate a total of more than $10 billion per year by levying a tax of
7 cents per 12-ounce can of Coke or Mountain Dew. If implemented by
Congress in the form of a national excise tax, that $10 billion could
make an important contribution toward paying for health coverage for
all Americans.

Plus, says CSPI, the decrease in soda consumption due to a higher price would help reduce the incidence of obesity,
diabetes and other costly chronic diseases. Americans spend
approximately $147 billion a year on medical expenditures related to
obesity, of which half is paid with Medicare and Medicaid dollars.

CSPI's report comes shortly after seven prominent nutrition experts made the case for a tax on soda in a separate paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Earlier this month, the prestigious Institute of Medicine included soda
taxes as one of several policies that should be adopted to help reduce
obesity, and a Brookings Institution committee on health reform, led by
former Medicare and Food and Drug Administration director Mark
McClellan, issued a report that called for a soft-drink tax. President
Obama's interview with Men's Health magazine is further renewing
interest in soda taxes, according to CSPI.

"President Obama is exactly right when he say kids are drinking too much soda," said CSPI
executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "Soda is dirt cheap and
promotes expensive and debilitating diseases, which in turn run up
health-care costs at all levels of government. Federal, state, and even
local governments would be wise to institute or increase taxes on a
product that causes so much medical and financial harm."

Also recently, a joint statewide study from the California
Center for Public Health Advocacy and the UCLA Center for Health Policy
Research confirmed that soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages are
one of the largest-if not the largest-contributors to obesity.
According to the study,
the 24 percent of adults who drink one or more non-diet sodas a day are
27 percent more likely to be overweight than adults who don't drink

On its web site, CSPI has a Liquid Candy Calculator
that enables legislative staffers or citizens to calculate the revenue
their state could raise from sales or excise taxes on sugar-sweetened

The Senate Finance Committee raised the prospect of soda
taxes and higher alcohol taxes when it released a policy options paper
on health care reform in May. Such taxes were not included in the draft legislation
released by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) yesterday, nor
have they been offered in an amendment during the committee's ongoing
markup, but CSPI and other health groups are still urging members of
both houses of Congress to include soda taxes in the final legislation.

"About half of the states have small soda taxes and there
certainly hasn't been any outrage over them," said Jacobson. "If the
Senate Finance Committee decides to leave these billions and billions
of dollars on the table, I suspect more state legislatures will tap
soda taxes to help pay for their own prevention efforts. In fact, more
states could do what New York City is doing, and fund an ad campaign designed to discourage soda consumption."

Since 1971, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science.