||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (September 2012)|
A soda tax or soft drink tax is a tax or surcharge on soft drinks. It may focus on sugar-sweetened beverages (soda sweetened with sugar, corn syrup, or other caloric sweeteners and other carbonated and uncarbonated drinks, and sports and energy drinks). As an example of Pigovian taxation, it may aim to discourage unhealthy diets and offset the economic costs of obesity.
Obesity in the United States is a public concern with the percentage of overweight people being among the highest in the world. Soda consumption has been noted as a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic and medical costs related to obesity are about $147 billion a year. In 1994 the soda tax idea was introduced by Kelly D. Brownell, Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale. In 2009, 33 US states had a sales tax on soft drinks. France is to introduce a tax of soft drinks in 2012.
To counter the problem of children's easy access to soft drinks, in 2005 the American Beverage Association began working to remove soft drink machines from US primary schools (children aged six to fourteen), and to replace soft drinks with healthier beverages such as orange juice or milk. High schools would have a 50/50 balance of machines dispensing soft drinks and healthier alternatives. Although orange juice may have a few more calories than cola, it also has other nutrients and fiber.
In 2009 the American Heart Association reported that the soft drinks and sugar sweetened beverages are the largest contributor of added sugars in Americans’ diets. Added sugars are sugars and syrups added to foods during processing or preparation and sugars and syrups added at the table. Excessive intake of added sugars, as opposed to naturally occurring sugars, is implicated in the rise in obesity, and the AHA adds that no more than half of a person’s daily discretionary calorie allowance should come from added sugars.
There have been a number of proposed taxes on sugary beverages, including:
- In a 2009 "Perspective" piece in the New England Journal of Medicine, Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, and Thomas R. Frieden, MD, PhD, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, argue for taxing sugared beverages. The authors propose that sugared beverages may be the single largest cause of the obesity epidemic. They state that an excise tax of one cent per ounce would reduce consumption by more than 10%.
- New York State budget proposals for 2009 included $0.01 per ounce tax on soft drinks, which was later abandoned.
- Washington State has imposed a $0.02 per ounce tax on carbonated beverages from 2007 to 2010.
- Washington, D.C., and Colorado removed sugared beverages from the list of groceries that were exempt from sales taxes.
- Maryland and Virginia are two of 33 states that levy sales taxes on soda. Maryland taxes soda at a rate of 6%, while Virginia’s rate is 1.5%. Virginia is also one of six states that impose a state excise tax on soda in addition to a sales tax.
- In 2009, the Obama Administration explored levying an excise tax on sweetened beverages as part of health care reform efforts, but the proposal was abandoned after heavy lobbying by the beverage industry.
- In 2012, the City Council of Richmond, California placed the Soda tax on the November 2012 ballot along with an advisory measure asking voters how they would like to spend the tax revenue. This proposal was rejected by the voters, 67% NO 33% YES. If Richmond had passed the Soda Tax, it would have been the first city in the nation to do so.
- France is in the process of introducing a tax on sugary drinks for 2012; following introduction, soft drinks are estimated to be up to 3.5% more expensive.
Fighting the creation of soft drink taxes, the American Beverage Association, the largest US trade organization for soft drink bottlers, has spent considerable money to lobby Congress. The Association's annual lobbying spending rose from about $391,000 to more than $690,000 from 2003 to 2008. And, in the 2010 election cycle, its lobbying grew to $8.67 million. These funds helped to pay for 25 lobbyists at seven different lobbying firms.
An industry group called “Americans Against Food Taxes,” backed by juice maker Welch's, soft drink maker PepsiCo Inc, the American Beverage Association, the Corn Refiners Association, McDonald's Corporation and Burger King Holdings Inc used national advertising and conducted lobbying to oppose these taxes. The group has characterized the soda tax as a regressive tax, which would unfairly burden the poor 
New York 
In the case of New York's effort to introduce a tax, the positive health message was supported by groups like the New York Academy of Medicine and editorial writers. The Alliance for a Healthier New York was formed with financial and strategic support from the United Healthcare Workers East union and the Greater New York Hospital Association. Groups such as New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes, set up by beverage companies, grocers, teamsters who represent drivers and production workers and others, lobbied against the measure. The anti-tax forces argued that the tax was based on dubious science, because obesity was a matter of how many calories people consumed, not where those calories came from.
The idea that the soda tax would cut into the income of poor New Yorkers while doing nothing to improve their access to exercise or fresh, affordable, healthy food was echoed by some advocacy groups for the poor. For example, Triada Stampas, the director of government relations for the Food Bank of New York City, testified against the tax before a Senate committee.
PepsiCo’s world headquarters is in Purchase, N.Y., and lawmakers in the Westchester County area and in districts with bottling companies of all kinds quickly lined up against the tax. The economic argument swayed even with some Democrats who otherwise tend to favor taxation.
Estimates of the amount spent by the Alliance for a Healthier New York, in support of the tax, range from $2.5 to $5 million. The American Beverage Association spent $9.4 million in only the first four months of 2010 to oppose New York’s soda tax, according to a search of public lobbying records by the New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance. Most of the money was spent on advertising, media and strategy.
Some opponents suggested New Yorkers would try to evade the tax by buying soda on Native American reservations, where some smokers go to find tax-free cigarettes, or by crossing the border to New Jersey, harming New York retailers.
Richard F. Daines, the New York State health commissioner has argued that such a tax would be good for society, especially children and teenagers who would be deterred from a lifelong soda habit. He often equated the campaign against sugary drinks to the campaign against tobacco.
Economics of the tax 
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reports that the tax could generate $14.9 billion in the first year alone. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that a 3-cent-per-ounce tax would generate over $24 Billion over four years.
Some tax measures call for using the revenue collected to pay for relevant health needs: improving diet, increasing physical activity, obesity prevention, nutrition education, advancing healthcare reform, etc.
- Support for a soda tax in New York was higher when pollsters say the money will go towards health care. A Quinnipiac University poll released in April 2010 found that New Yorkers opposed a state tax on soda of one penny per ounce by a 35 point margin, but opposition dropped to a margin of one point when respondents were told the money would go towards health care. A Thompson Reuters poll released in the same month found that 51 percent of Americans opposed a soda tax, while 33 percent supported one.
Scientific studies 
Taxing soda can lead to a reduction in overall consumption, according to a scientific study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in March 2010. The study found that a 10 percent tax on soda led to a 7 percent reduction in calories from soft drinks. These researchers believe that an 18 percent tax on these foods could cut daily intake by 56 calories per person, resulting in a weight loss of 5 pounds (2 kg) per person per year. The study followed 5,115 young adults ages 18 to 30 from 1985 to 2006.
An April 2010 study published in the medical journal Health Affairs found that small taxes on soft drinks do little to lessen soft drink consumption or prevent childhood obesity, but larger taxes probably would. The study's author said that if taxes were about 18 cents on the dollar, they would make a significant difference in consumption. A 2012 study, also in the journal Health Affairs, estimates that a penny per ounce tax on sugared beverages could prevent 2.4 million cases of diabetes per year, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 premature deaths over 10 years.
A 2009 study in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy determined that a percentage point change in a soft drink tax would affect body mass index (BMI) by a very small amount—about 0.003 points. Research from Duke University and the National University of Singapore released in December 2010 tested larger taxes and determined that a 20 percent and 40 percent taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages would largely not affect calorie intake because people switch to untaxed, but equally caloric, beverages. Kelly Brownell, a proponent of soda taxes, reacted by stating that “[t]he fact is that nobody has been able to see how people will really respond under these conditions.”
Generalized sugar tax 
See also 
- "Statistics Related to Overweight and Obesity". CDC. 2006. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
- New England Journal of Medicine, The Public Health and Economic Benefits of Taxing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
- Sparks, Ian (October 6, 2011). "France to impose fat tax on drinks with added sugar such as Coca-Cola and Fanta". Daily Mail.
- USA Today, Beverage group pull sodas from primary schools, August 16, 2005, http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2005-08-16-soda-schools_x.htm
- American Heart Association, statement, Aug 24, 2009, http://americanheart.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=800
- Hartocollis, Anemona (July 2, 2010). "Soda Tax in N.Y. a Victim of Industry Campaign". The New York Times.
- Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger, "Beverage Industry Douses Tax on Soft Drinks." L.A. Times, Feb 7 2010. Available at http://articles.latimes.com/2010/feb/07/nation/la-na-soda-tax7-2010feb07
- Richmond Municipal Code CHAPTER 7.08 SUGAR-SWEETENED BEVERAGES http://sireweb.ci.richmond.ca.us/sirepub/cache/2/tlmgcs00g42zimnqfdqcb25q/33714608302012030449501.PDF
- "Voters resoundingly reject Richmond 'soda' tax", MercuryNews.com, 2012, retrieved 2012-11-07
- "[Controversial sugar levy: France introduces a cola tax]". Der Spiegel. December 28, 2011.
- "Coca-Cola part en guerre contre la "taxe sodas"", Le Monde, 2011, retrieved 2011-12-30
- Center for Responsive Politics, ABA profile
- Reuters, tax soft drinks to fight obesity, us experts say, Sept 16 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN16158491
- Americans Against Food Taxes, "Education, Not Taxes" 2012. Available at http://www.nofoodtaxes.com/facts/#education.
- Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, "Who would be affected by soda taxes?" The Fed Letter, No. 284 Mar 2011. http://www.chicagofed.org/digital_assets/publications/chicago_fed_letter/2011/cflmarch2011_284.pdf
- Adamy, Janet (2009-05-12). "Wall Street Journal, soda tax weighed to pay for healthcare". The Wall Street Journal.
- Drake, Bruce. “Tax Sugary Drinks? New Yorkers Say 'No' but Leave Some Wiggle Room.” Politics Daily. April 14, 2010. http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/04/14/n/
- Hensley, Scott (April 21, 2010). "In Obesity Fight, A Third Of Americans Support Soda Tax". NPR.
- Reuters, tax soda pizza to cut obesity researchers say, March 8, 2010, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6275T720100308
- Archives of Internal Medicine news release, March 8, 2010, http://pubs.ama-assn.org/media/2010a/0308.dtl#1
- Health Affairs, Soda Taxes, Soft Drink Consumption, And Children's Body Mass Index, April 1, 2010, http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/hlthaff.2009.0061v1
- Associated Press, Study: Small Soda Taxes Don’t Dent Obesity, April 1, 2010, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iH4SZwbKI9PYhye5kJT_WLhm4B4AD9EQ1LN01
- Allison Aubrey, "Could a Soda Tax Prevent 2,600 Deaths Per Year?" NPR.org, Jan 12, 2012
- Fletcher, J., Frisvold, D. and Tefft, N. “Can Soft Drink Taxes Reduce Weight?” Contemporary Economic Policy, 28: 23–35. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1465-7287.2009.00182.x/abstract
- Park, Alice. “Study: Soda Taxes May Not Be Enough to Curb Obesity.” TIME, December 13, 2010. http://healthland.time.com/2010/12/13/study-sugar-tax-may-lead-to-only-modest-weight-loss/
- "Avgiftssatser for 2012". regjeringen.no. 2011-10-06. Retrieved 2012-10-22.
- Ounces of Prevention - The Public Policy Case for Taxes on Sugared Beverages: "Perspective" piece in the New England Journal of Medicine, by Kelly Brownell and Tom Frieden
- Want a Healthier State? Save Gov. Paterson's Tax on Sugar Soda: Op-Ed in the New York Daily News, by Kelly Brownell
- Soft Drink Taxes: A Policy Brief: by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale