US considers soft drink tax

Posted by Isobel Drake on 19th October 2009

America continues to debate the merits of a tax on soft drinks with regard to its impact on obesity. A recent study indicated that those who drink one or more high sugar beverages each day were 27 per cent more likely to be obese, fuelling the debate.

Americans are the largest consumers of soft drinks in the world, and the average person in the country drinks almost 200 litres of sugary beverages annually. As such, concerns have been raised about the impact of soft drinks on obesity, with President Obama recently agreeing that children in the States drink too much of these type of beverages.

He even went as far as to say that it was “an idea that we should be exploring” in an interview with Men’s Health magazine.

Dr Kelly Brownell, Director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, told the ABC on Friday that a soft drink tax could be worth $US15 billion in the first year (based on a one-cent-per-ounce tax) – a considerable figure that could help pay for the escalating cost of healthcare in the country.”The link between these beverage intakes and health outcomes is completely solid, as I said. The revenue that could be raised from something like this could be considerable,” he contended. “And if the money, $150 billion for example over 10 years for a penny-an-ounce tax, it were done federally, that’s a lot of money that could be used to go back to the people who are most vulnerable.”

Soft drink producers have united with fast-food outlets (who could also be facing higher taxes on their products if certain health groups get their way) to slam the idea, maintaining that consumer choices should not be guided by government taxation. Coca-Cola has been a vocal critic, and has recently introduced a number of initiatives designed to encourage moderate consumption including calorie-controlled options and front-of-pack nutritional information.