Start A Petition

Is a Soda Tax a Good Idea?

Health & Wellness  (tags: children, diabetes, disease, food, health, prevention, obesity, tooth decay )

- 2103 days ago -
Driving this surge was the rise of cheap high-fructose corn syrup, used heavily by the beverage industry beginning in the early 1980s, the consumption of which went from 19 pounds annually per capita in 1980 to more than 60 pounds by 1999.

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.


Kit B (276)
Monday June 18, 2012, 10:36 am
Photo: IkeX/Flickr

In today's Econundrum, Maddie Oatman argues in favor of taxing soda. She points out the scary amounts of calories that people consume in the form of sweetened beverages—and the mounting evidence that sugar, like alcohol and tobacco, is addictive. Oatman speaks to an economist who has crunched the numbers and believes that a penny-per-ounce soda tax (like the one proposed in Richmond, California) could actually be enough to persuade consumers to quit their Big Gulp habits. The revenue from such a tax could also be used to pay for health care and education.

But as Oatman also points out, the idea of a soda tax is nothing if not divisive. Which means it should make for a fun debate. We're lucky to have two experts to facilitate a conversation on the subject and answer reader questions: nutritionist and author Marion Nestle, whose new book is called "Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics", and MoJo food and ag blogger Tom Philpott.

Marion Nestle: Excess calories are what make people fat. Consuming more calories than are expended in body functions and activity. The calories can come from anywhere, but the calories from sugar sweetened beverages differ in two ways from food calories: They have no nutrients accompanies their sugars (the calories are "empty"), and they are in liquid form. We are seeing increasing evidence that the body does not regulate liquid calories as well as it regulates calories that are absorbed more slowly from foods. That's why the Center for Science in the Public Interest calls sugary drinks "liquid candy," and why advice saying "don't drink your calories" makes such good sense.

Tom Philpott: I agree with Marion, with a possible caveat. First, there's strong circumstantial evidence that added sweeteners play a big role in the obesity problem. US obesity rates were pretty stable until about 1980, when they began to rise rapidly. The CDC tells us (PDF) they doubled between 1980 and 2000. Perhaps not coincidentally, per capita sweetener consumption began to rise dramatically over that same period—USDA figures tell us that we took in about 120 pounds of sweeteners per person per year in 1980, and by 1999 we were ingesting 151 pounds. That's a 25 percent jump.

By Kiera Butler and Maddie Oatman | Mother Jones |

Full discussion at Visit Site.


Kit B (276)
Monday June 18, 2012, 10:42 am

We tax cigarettes, gasoline, alcohol, gambling any other products deemed as a choice not a necessity. We not deal with the reality that we consume gallons of sugar in many products, soda is an obvious one. Better yet, tax the industry that produces these products, currently most taxes are passed on to consumers. What if we actually had the corporation really pay taxes? Huh oh, Here come the anti-tax brigade.

Arielle S (313)
Monday June 18, 2012, 11:21 am
Yes, it's a great idea - all that sugar water ought to be good for something besides rotting teeth and making people fat...

Terry V (30)
Monday June 18, 2012, 11:21 am
Life is about choices, to each their own.
Supply and demand, NOT "Big Brother"

Kathy Chadwell (354)
Monday June 18, 2012, 12:37 pm
It's not a good idea from my stand point.
I enjoy so few things,,, why should I be taxed extra of enjoying a soda?

Yvonne White (229)
Monday June 18, 2012, 2:47 pm
Right on Kit! "Better yet, tax the industry that produces these products, currently most taxes are passed on to consumers. What if we actually had the corporation really pay taxes?"

Kit B (276)
Monday June 18, 2012, 4:02 pm's okay to tax cigarettes, alcohol and gasoline? I think that we are conditioned to respond in a positive way only after we hear enough propaganda that we begin to think something is bad. In about a twenty + year period we began thinking that smoking was bad, and it probably is, but we condemn cigarette smokers, tax every pack of cigarettes and claim that isn't big brother? Sorry Terry but Big Brother is already sitting on your shoulder.

Thanks Yvonne - can't send out Green Stars.

William K (308)
Monday June 18, 2012, 8:06 pm
Part of the problem is the subsidies paid to corn farmers that make corn and all of its products so cheap. Not only have these subsidies undermined small-holder agriculture in Mexico via NAFTA, but they are also contributing to the poisoning of our population through High Fructose Corn Syrup. Ending the subsidies on corn would reduce the tax burden on the US, and the price of sodas would rise as a result, achieving the same end as a direct tax on the sodas.


Shelly Peterson (213)
Monday June 18, 2012, 9:47 pm
Tax the industry!!!

Christine Stewart (134)
Tuesday June 19, 2012, 12:18 am
Tax all junk food!

Virginia Esquer (8)
Tuesday June 19, 2012, 12:26 am
that is a personal decision of everyone if they want to drink soda or not or willing to pay more taxes.

cecily w (0)
Tuesday June 19, 2012, 1:42 am
The concept of taxing soda is interesting, and I'm not necessarily against it. BUT first the government needs to get its act together. Soda can be purchased with Food Stamps. In Missouri (at least) taxes are not charged when products purchased with Food Stamps.

In fact, during 2011 NYC Mayor Bloomberg wanted to add soda to the list of products that cannot be purchased with
Food Stamps by NYC residents, but the United States Department of Agriculture rejected this request. (This was real, I've seen the articles.)

Glenn Byrnes (196)
Tuesday June 19, 2012, 2:18 am
They should not only tax soda, but all junk food. I have a petition asking Congress to do so. Please sign it. Thank you.

Robert B (60)
Tuesday June 19, 2012, 6:49 am
If you really understand the detrimental effects of Sodas, why on earth would you drink them? I can see maybe once in a long while on a hot day a cold soda would be nice, but the cost in damage to your teeth and overall health just isn't worth it.
A 1 to 5 cent tax could be used to fund universal healthcare or help get us out of debt. We would first have to have a STRICT RULE that the tax money can not be dipped into by politicians for their own agendas. Like they did with the Social Security fund.

Christeen A (377)
Tuesday June 19, 2012, 9:12 am
No more taxes please.

Terrie Williams (798)
Tuesday June 19, 2012, 11:04 am
What Robert, Kit, et al said!

Kit B (276)
Tuesday June 19, 2012, 11:29 am

No more taxes? Then let's just live in anarchy, because without an increased tax base this government can not function. Raise income tax by a minimum of 10% and use that money to re hire the 600,000 employee laid off by state and local governments. Every one wants a grid system for electricity, roads for their cars, inter-city transportation, education for their children, and no one wants to pay taxes.

Excellent idea, Robert.

Kit B (276)
Tuesday June 19, 2012, 11:31 am

Read what William has posted. That is true of far too many corporations in America, our taxes subsidize their products from sugar to corn and oil, the list is long.

Fred Krohn (34)
Tuesday June 19, 2012, 4:52 pm
We're overtaxed already. We should try taxing politicians, not regular citizens!

Donna B (36)
Tuesday June 19, 2012, 5:22 pm
No!! No!! No!! It is already taxed, check your receipt.

David C (150)
Tuesday June 19, 2012, 6:00 pm
how about calling it an investment in your health plan for the future????? or we could use it as a return deposit if you recycle......

Susanne R (234)
Tuesday June 19, 2012, 7:57 pm
Even if it doesn't discourage people from purchasing these products, items such as alcohol, tobacco products, and beverages and snacks sweetened with large amounts of high-fructose corn syrup and other sugars should be more heavily taxed because it's been proven that their consumption contributes heavily to the development of obesity, diabetes, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, and many other preventable illnesses that are reaching epidemic proportions and are expensive to treat. If these items could be taxed more heavily and those tax dollars could be earmarked for health care, it would relieve some of the burden carried by the government, taxpayers, and private insurers. If a way can be found to make the manufacturers share the responsibility for the health problems their products cause --even better!

Tom C Sullivan (98)
Tuesday June 19, 2012, 9:15 pm
Then I guess we need to tax 99% of everything, as nothing is really healthy, just another way to give up hard earned money

Past Member (0)
Wednesday June 20, 2012, 1:32 am
Silly ~

Cheryl B (64)
Wednesday June 20, 2012, 4:53 am
sounds like a plan

Cheryl B (64)
Wednesday June 20, 2012, 4:53 am
maybe GM foods could be taxed extra,too

Ruth C (87)
Wednesday June 20, 2012, 5:58 am
Terrific idea!

Kit B (276)
Wednesday June 20, 2012, 7:51 am

Think about how much corn is actually used for human consumption, about 2%, the rest is mostly sold for worthless form of bio-fuel or sugar to enhance the taste of foods, and of course feed for animals. The human race has been genetically modifying corn and other crops for thousands of years. We need to be specific when we make statements about GM foods. Tax those who would take from the public the right to grow their own foods, companies like Cargill and Monsanto are not genetic altering food to feed the world. Their crops are to create a monopoly on food.
If we ended the subsidies to these companies then they would have to actually compete in a free market, the market is highly slanted when the R&D, even the marketing of the product is paid in large part by US tax dollars. Business models are supposed to be a "make or break" model, not one constantly supported by the flow of tax money.

If we taxed something like Soda, that money could be routed to health care.

Past Member (0)
Thursday June 21, 2012, 10:31 am
Americans consume so much more food now than they did even a generation ago primarily because the percentage of our income that we spend on food has declined. Industrial farming has made food cheaper, at least in terms of price. There are other costs in terms of environment and health, but those issues are for another post. The simplest way then to get Americans to think about their food choices more carefully and to even eat less is to raise the price of food, specifically by taxing it more. Raise the taxes and spend the revenue generated on health care.

Jim P (3257)
Thursday June 21, 2012, 5:35 pm
William K. Says it all for me.

There is another tax proposal being considered: Tax on the number of miles you travel in your car... Ugh!

Ty, Kit.
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:
Please add your comment: (plain text only please. Allowable HTML: <a>)

Track Comments: Notify me with a personal message when other people comment on this story

Loading Noted By...Please Wait


butterfly credits on the news network

  • credits for vetting a newly submitted story
  • credits for vetting any other story
  • credits for leaving a comment
learn more

Most Active Today in Health & Wellness

Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.

New to Care2? Start Here.