Yesterday, an Illinois Senate committee heard testimony on a bill that would impose a one-cent-per-ounce excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
Opponents of the legislation cited numerous economic ramifications of the bill. For example, residents would travel to neighboring states to purchase beverages at a cheaper price, hurting local small businesses. This could lead to job loss in addition to additional burdens on struggling families.
Here’s what many people probably don’t know about the proposal: this sugary beverage tax wouldn’t apply only to soda. It would also impose additional costs on sports drinks, juices, and some coffees and teas.
Proponents of the legislation said the potential price hike would dissuade consumers from purchasing the drinks, possibly leading to a decrease in the obesity rate. However, a recent study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation casts serious doubt on the claim that soda taxes reduce obesity. If anything, it just encourages consumers to seek their calories elsewhere.
Obesity is serious medical condition that deserves a comprehensive public policy response, and while a soda tax is an appealing option for some legislators, it has been shown to have no significant impact on obesity.
The soda tax bill is currently stalled in the Illinois legislature. Let’s hope the lawmakers soon figure out what consumers already know: if we want to get serious about obesity, we need to start with education about moderation and exercise, not with laws and regulations.
(Photo by Justin Brockie)