Obesity is a major health problem that’s getting worse, and there’s a direct link between sugary drinks and obesity
Obesity, and the diseases linked to it, result in a poorer quality of life, contribute to children missing school, and cost this country about $147 billion a year. In San Mateo County, more than half a million dollars is spent each year on obesity-related health care costs.
What is a "soda tax"?
A “soda tax” is a tax or surcharge on sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and sports and energy drinks. Many elected officials are working to introduce voting measures for a sugar-sweetened beverage tax to make sugary drinks more expensive so that less people will buy them.
The money generated by a soda tax could help fund health care initiatives, such as childhood nutrition and obesity prevention programs. This would help keep people from getting sick in the first place.
There are many states, cities, and counties looking into implementing soda tax measures over the next few years. A common proposal is a one-cent charge for every ounce of sugar-sweetened beverages sold. Right here in the Bay area, Richmond is the first city in the nation to ask voters to support a tax on sugary drinks.
Scientific studies have shown that a soda tax can reduce the overall amount of sugar-sweetened beverages people drink. A 2012 study published in the medical journal Health Affairs estimated that a penny per ounce tax on sugared beverages could prevent 2.4 million cases of diabetes a year, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 premature deaths over 10 years.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reports that a soda tax could generate $14.9 billion in the first year alone, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that a 3-cent-per-ounce tax would generate more than $24 billion over four years.
It’s become clear that trying to get people to eat less and exercise more is not going to turn this obesity epidemic around
While every person has the responsibility to make good choices for themselves, their children and their families, it’s also important that we live and work in an environment that supports people in making healthy choices, which includes making the healthy choice an easy choice.
We need to do everything we can to reverse the facts that healthy food is harder to find and expensive, while unhealthy food is convenient to buy and cheap. The soda tax is a good start.
At the very least, a soda tax can help reduce the demand since there are many places to buy cheap sugary drinks, such as at schools, grocery markets, and local stores.
With all the junk food and other harmful things out there, why pick on soda?
Our kids drink way too much soda. Sugary drinks are the #1 source of calories in this country. And scientific evidence has shown that sugar-sweetened drinks are harmful to public health, particularly in poorer minority communities.
Soda consumption has contributed to the obesity epidemic and has been linked to diabetes and heart disease. The goal of a soda tax is to decrease the amount of soda people buy and drink.
There are already initiatives happening to help people cut down on sugary drinks. Some schools have banned drinks with high sugar content; many businesses and organizations, including San Mateo County Health System, have removed sugar-sweetened beverages from their vending machines; and there are state and national campaigns, such as “Rethink Your Drink,” aimed at getting families to cut down on sugary drinks as a way to live a healthier life.
The tobacco tax worked, and so could a soda tax
A growing number of people and public health advocates are pushing for more aggressive actions, urging that soda be treated like tobacco with taxes, warning labels and large marketing campaign, all aimed to discourage people from drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.
It took over 10 years, but the public war against tobacco has worked. Americans smoke at half the rate they once did, half of all smokers have quit, and the tobacco companies now pay for strong anti-smoking campaigns.
In the case of tobacco, the health risks of smoking were clear. But the beverage industry claims that there is no unique link between soda and obesity and that drinking a moderate amount of soda isn’t harmful or addictive.
The problem is that the amount of sugary drinks consumed in this country is far from moderate. At roughly 50 gallons per person per year, our consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages has contributed to the rise in obesity and increasing obesity-related health care costs.
Research shows that a soda tax will make a difference. In fact, it has been proven that the more sweetened beverages cost, the less people will drink.
Big changes are needed to stop the obesity epidemic and taxing soda is a start
The idea of a special tax on soda, similar to those on tobacco and alcoholic beverages, is attracting more interest every day and public opinion polls show more people supporting soda taxes.
Of course the choices people make do matter and do make a difference. But personal choice is not enough, and we are losing the obesity battle. With one out of every three children now expected to develop Type 2 diabetes, we must do more. A soda tax is one more powerful tool to help discourage our children and future generations from a lifelong soda habit.
Facing the facts that sugary drinks are cheap and easy to buy means we are facing an uphill battle. It may be time to try a stronger approach, and a sugar tax is a start.
Join or start a conversation to tell us what you think by visiting us at www.facebook.com/SMCHealth
Read more about sugar-sweetened beverages in our Sip on This brief