Philadelphia’s ridiculous soda tax

In April I noted that a 2¢/ounce soda tax failed to come to a vote in the California state legislature. That’s an exorbitant tax, nearly doubling the price of a twelve-ounce can of soda. Other states are trying to pass such a tax, while Mexico and a few European countries have one already. In the meantime, only the People’s Republic of Berkeley, California, has such a tax in place: 1 cent per ounce. The San Jose Mercury-News reports that the Berkeley tax is showing “results,” but those results are simply a small rise in the retail price of soft drinks. There are no data on whether consumption has decreased (the goal of the initiative), or whether health has improved (for that it’s too early to tell). In Mexico, the one-peso-per-liter tax on sugared soft drinks has reduced consumption by about 12%.

I regard these taxes as unconscionable, as they’re simply ways for the government to regulate people’s diets, and get some money as well. I can barely countenance such taxes on cigarettes, but sodas aren’t that dangerous when drunk in moderation. Almost nobody smokes in moderation. More important, if we’re doing this to fight obesity, why not tax anything with added sugar, like cakes, cookies, or ice cream? Or why not red meat?  Or, if you really want to get serious, why not levy an income tax on people by their weight: charging them $X yearly per pound over their ideal weight? That, of course, would be politically insupportable—a sort of fat-shaming—although it might do more for public health than a soda tax. What better incentive to lose weight than if you get taxed for being heavy? The obese may argue (incorrectly) that being overweight isn’t unhealthy, or that they are simply unable to lose weight, but one could also argue that not all people who drink Coke are endangering their health.

These “nanny taxes” are a slippery slope toward government standardization of diets, and they’re popular because they sound good. But wait until they come for your hamburger!

Now Philadelphia is on the verge of voting in a soda tax, which was sold not as a health measure, but a revenue measure—to fund kindergartens and other useful initiatives like libraries and parks. While the tax was originally 3¢ per ounce, the measure that passed the city council by voice vote this week halved that, to 1.5¢ per ounce. What makes this truly ridiculous, though, is that it includes diet sodas, which aren’t a health risk (well, there are some reports that enormous consumption may increase the risk of cancer):

The measure that passed Wednesday taxes not just sugary drinks but also diet drinks. It exempts juice drinks from the tax as long as they have 50 percent juice, even if they also have added sugar.

The city finance director also admitted during the hearing that the soda-tax revenue wouldn’t be used just to fund kindergartens parks, and the like, but would be used to fill in general lacunae in the city budget. In other words, the city lied when proposing it.

There can be no health justification for a tax on both sugared and diet sodas. It is either just a way to grab more taxes by piggybacking on a sugared-soda tax, or reflects people simply not liking others who drink diet sodas, just as some don’t like people “vaping” as a way to reduce the health effects of cigarettes. And if they’re going to tax diet soda, why not bottled water? Such a tax would have salutary ecological effects.

If Philadelphia is doing this just to raise revenue, and not for the health benefits, it would be more useful to raise (or institute) local income or sales taxes. The former could be progressive rather than regressive, for soda taxes put most of the burden on the poor. If it’s for the health benefits, why tax diet sodas instead of butter or red meat?




  1. GBJames
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink


    Then again, I’m not a soda drinker. But if they decide to tax my beer, I’m going to raise a ruckus.

    Oh, wait…

    • Kevin
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      Yeah and scotches and French wines. I recommend removing taxes on high end beverages and putting the taxes on sugar water, as Jobs would call it.

  2. Michael Finfer, MD
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    A few comments

    First, there is ample evidence that sugar-sweetened soft drinks are linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome. Basically, they have no redeeming nutritional value. While some people drink them in moderation, some people use them as a staple. It’s not the only cause of the obesity epidemic, but it is definitely plays a role.

    These taxes are aimed to reduce, not eliminate consumption. If someone wants to pay the price, they are welcome to.

    The soft drink taxes that I am aware of, especially the one in Mexico, have been successful at reducing sales of those items.

    As for the diet drinks, there is some evidence that they can cause people consuming them to eat more, possibly by creating a disconnect in the brain between taste and caloric content. The science is not as well established as it is for the beverages sweetened by sugar, but the link seems to be there.

    Finally, if people engage in a behavior that busts the government’s health care budget, and they continue to do so despite education and nudging, should not the government intervene in some way to discourage that behavior? As much as I have a distaste for big government, I think the answer should be yes. Allowing that behavior to continue harms not only the people who engage that behavior, but everyone paying taxes as well.

    • Craw
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      You articulate the best argument against publicly provided healthcare: that it is used as an excuse to regulate behaviour. True supporters of public funding of healthcare should reject such intrusive regulation.
      Advocates of bans always leave out the pleasure derived from what they want to ban. As we all know sex can spread disease and lead to serious complications. If we are going to pay for that isn’t it reasonable to expect the most active participants to pay more? It’s not a ban, if you want more you pay the tax.

      • Stonyground
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        In the UK we have a huge obesity epidemic and it has a very specific cause. That cause is a government funded industry dedicated to addressing the obesity epidemic. Since there is a crippling shortage of obese people for this government funded industry to help out, they have solved this problem by using an absurd interpretation of the body mass index to declare anyone who doesn’t look like a famine victim to be overweight.

    • Somite
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink


      At this point the link between added sugars, obesity, metabolic disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer is incontrovertible. Taxes on added sugars are exactly like taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, and the much needed carbon tax. They are a way to moderate consumption, increase well-being, and decrease mortality.

      If it is true that we don’t have free will, then we certainly need help that steers us to make better choices! 🙂

      • Posted June 11, 2016 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

        If we don’t have free will, neither do the city authorities of Philadelphia.

    • John
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Well said

      • Dale Franzwa
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

        So what?

    • Posted June 11, 2016 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

      Re: diet drinks.

      If people think wearing a seatbelt makes speeding safe, should we discourage seatbelts?

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:04 am | Permalink


    • Diane G.
      Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:03 am | Permalink

      How is this not a regressive tax? (And please don’t argue that the poor have poorer diets in general and so are more in need of nanny-ing.)

    • jeffery
      Posted June 13, 2016 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      I drink diet Pepsi, and I know for a FACT that the stuff will MAKE you hungry.

  3. Alexander
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    “But wait until they come for your hamburger!”

    Don’t they add sugar to hamburgers yet? Just wait. Food companies add sugar (together with salt) to canned vegetables, yogurt, mayonnaise, ketchup, and even mustard, making these food products unpalatable (do labels in the US tell you how much sugar is added to food products?) I’m all for any measure to stop this.

    • Michael Finfer, MD
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      The federal government just finalized new food labeling regulations. The new labels declare the amount of added sugar in each product.

      We should begin seeing those labels in a couple of years.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Why is it possibly necessary to add salt to (regarding my own personal peeve) canned tuna?

      I gather that it’s a calculated, manipulative effort – as with restaurant food – to stimulate my taste buds and cash outlays, inasmuch as the canning itself preserves the tuna. The implication is that the tuna tastes too bland. As most of us have heard someone say, “It needs more salt.” (And it must be added during cooking; adding it at the table will not suffice, so as to conform to the desires of the culinary tyrant holding sway over the dinner party at hand.) Surely they don’t claim that the salt is necessary to preserve the tuna. The canning process replaced the preserving efficacy of the salt, eh?

      If ‘These “nanny taxes” are a slippery slope toward government standardization of diets,’ what if any obligation does government at any level have to fund remedies for subsequent obesity, high blood pressure and resulting stroke, etc.? If it’s not allowed to tax consumers to prompt them to adopt healthier culinary habits, why shouldn’t they financially bear up under the consequences, and not complain about the government not taking up the health slack they themselves have willingly let out?

  4. Historian
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    We live in an age where all levels of government are short of cash and they are desperate to find new sources of revenue. Certainly, raising the marginal tax rates of a graduated income tax (especially on higher incomes) would be the best and fairest way to do this. However, politicians know that raising the income tax is the surest way to raise the public ire and jeopardize their careers. Taxes on items such as soda is much politically palatable for these reasons.

    1) Those who don’t drink soda simply don’t care.
    2) It is a dribs and drabs tax. If a person has to pay an additional 25 cents for a can of soda, she may not even notice it. Even if she does, she’ll quickly get used to the higher price.
    3) At least some people approve of nanny taxes, so the opposition to the tax is somewhat limited.
    4) The tax may, indeed, burden the poor the most. But, the poor have the least political clout, so the politicians will suffer little from imposing it.

    Politicians know that raising any tax is likely to raise strong objections. For them, the nanny taxes are the lesser of the evils.

    • Ben
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      A better solution would be for Congress to stop subsidizing the production of sugar (and corn syrup, etc) and and let food prices reflect the true production costs. Subsidizing to keep the cost low, then taxing to make the cost high–no wonder no one trusts elected officials.

      • mordacious1
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        Actually, the subsidizing of locally grown sugar (and tariffs of imported sugar) tends to keep sugar prices higher than if there was free trade on sugar. But since we switched to corn syrup for many items, this may be irrelevant.

        If the government wants to raise prices of items with sugar, than remove the subsidies and tax all sugar at its source. Then everything with sugar or corn syrup would go up. Why target just soda? I consume lots of sugar, but don’t drink soda. As I write this, I’m eating a large piece of strawberry cheesecake.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted June 11, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

          You think subsidizing sugar keeps the price higher but the government does not care about that. What they care about is taking care of the lobby who works for the sugar industry who puts lots of money in the pockets of the politician. This in turn, keeps the sugar producers in business who would otherwise be out of business in a free market. Who does it hurt, the people in other countries who produce the sugar much cheaper but have no market for their product.

  5. Rob
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of the red-light cameras we had in my town for a while. They were sold as safety measures, but in reality were just a money making scheme. (And, of course, the camera company owner loudly, and falsely in my opinion, touted statistics in his favor.) Amazaingly, since the cameras were voted out, there hasn’t been a rash of red-light fatalities.

    • Alexander
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      what about radar speed traps?

      • Filippo
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

        Is there some place a police officer can set up shop that will not be considered a speed “trap”? Shall we do away with speed limits?

        I’m reminded of a noble American who complained of speed bumps along the daily short-cut he took to work through a child-infested neighborhood subdivision in which he himself did not live.

        • Alexander
          Posted June 11, 2016 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

          No, I’m all for speed limits and speed “traps.”

          I’ve lived in Germany and there are still parts on the highway system where there are no speed limits. Consequently you have people that drive their big BMWs and Mercedes at speeds of 140 miles per hour. I tell these idiots what happened to the crash of the Concorde about ten years ago. It was running at a speed of I guess 180 miles per hour on the runway when one of its wheels hit a foot long piece of metal that fell from a plane during take off. It caused the tire to explode and it pierced a fuel tank over the wheel. Now, the wheels of the Concorde are about 3 feet across, but the wheels of a car running 140 miles per hour are half the size, and spin much faster. Just hitting a screw fallen from a truck could be fatal.

          BTW, the reason for the absence of speed limits on sections of the German highways is caused by the German car industry that wants to sell expensive and fast cars. If I were a dictator, I would only allow cars with engines of 1000 cc maximum. The first Porsche sports cars had beetle engines of 35 hp, and its owners where happy. Now Porsches have 400 hp engines, while we are supposed to limit CO2.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted June 11, 2016 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

            “Just hitting a screw fallen from a truck could be fatal.”

            I think that’s absurd. You cannot extrapolate from aircraft tyres to car tyres of a vastly different size, speed, construction and loading.

            If you have any data on cars hitting debris I suggest you cite it.


            • jeffery
              Posted June 13, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

              My “take” on speed traps and stop light cameras is this: to begin with, it’s one of those things where, if you DON’T speed, or run red lights, you’re never going to get a ticket for it- those who howl the loudest against these statute-enforcing techniques are generally those who would like to retain the “privilege” of ignoring them.
              Stopping at red lights (properly) IS THE LAW
              Adhering to speed limits IS THE LAW
              It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a hurry or whether you think a particular speed limit is “bogus” for a given stretch of road, IT’S THE LAW.
              I have ridden a bicycle for years and have observed a deterioration in peoples’ attitudes about obeying routine traffic laws (which nearly got me killed several times): years ago, it was not unusual to see one car occasionally speed up to “slip through” on a yellow light at a stop signal (there are no red-light cameras in the city of 50,000 where I live); then they started “running it” when the light turned to red when they were in the middle of the intersection; now it’s gotten so bad that you can count on two, even three, drivers trying to get through long after they should have legally stopped; everyone basically counts on this phenomenon and hesitates accordingly, which sometimes cuts the time THEY have to clear the intersection in half, leading to more of the same behavior. Turn signals and speed limits seem to be perceived as “optional” anymore, and the vast majority of collisions in this town are from people turning in front of others at intersections, following too closely (which is almost always due to selfish impatience-“failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident”) or failures to yield when entering a street from a side street.
              Humans being the “gain-seeking” animals that they are, there’s no reason for them to change this behavior unless powerful influences cause them to perceive that NOT doing them is a greater “gain”- should a municipality make money off of people who violate laws designed to keep our society running smoothly and protect the welfare of all? Damn straight. If there’s a problem with the functioning of devices for this purpose, that’s an entirely different issue.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 14, 2016 at 12:30 am | Permalink

                Shouting “IT’S THE LAW” has no possible relevance to the hazards of hitting an obstacle on an autobahn (at a perfectly legal speed, by the way). Nor does the rest of that verbal smokescreen.

                If lights weren’t so incompetently programmed (giving ridiculously long green phases to empty roads while there’s traffic waiting on the red) there would be less temptation to go through on the orange and avoid having one’s time wasted unnecessarily.


    • colnago80
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Red light running is a big problem in these parts, particularly at the intersection of minor cross streets with major thoroughfares. The big problem with them is it becomes all too tempting for jurisdictions to shorten the yellow change interval to catch more drivers violating the red. It is my information that use of red light cameras does reduce the number or red violations, which is all to the good.

      • Michael Finfer, MD
        Posted June 12, 2016 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

        We had this problem in New Jersey. It was revealed that the yellow interval at many of the intersections with cameras were so short that it was a violation of state law. Many millions of dollars worth of violations were invalidated, and the cameras were turned off for several months.

        Two or three years ago, the program expired, and the legislature did not renew it. The cameras were turned off, but the equipment has not been removed from many of the intersections. Wishful thinking?

        Red light cameras and speed enforcement cameras are currently not allowed in New Jersey. Summonses must be issued by a law enforcement officer who witnessed the violations.

        • jeffery
          Posted June 16, 2016 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

          To “infiniteimprobabilit: Spoken like a person who feels that laws are “optional” and that it’s the municipality’s “fault” that people are “tempted” to break them.
          Talk about a “verbal smokescreen”: first denigrating my stance by claiming that I’m “shouting it’s the law”; then you try to claim that it’s actually HAZARDOUS to do so; then complaining how it’s the lights’ fault (I addressed that in my closing sentence. You probably don’t bother with a seat belt, either.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted June 20, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

            Jeffery – Since none of your comments contained anything but non sequiturs or strawmanning I don’t think I need to refute anything. As it happens I wear a seat belt all the time, properly adjusted – it makes sense.


            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted June 20, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

              P.S. You are aware that typing anything in all caps (such as “IT’S THE LAW” which is what you did) is considered to be shouting? See e.g. here:


  6. David Duncan
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m all in favour of taxes on cigarettes – they stink for non smokers like me and cause obvious health problems. I just wish they’d increase the tax on them.

    Against specific taxes on diet drinks (the alleged health negatives are a long way from proven IMHO) and a bit in favour of taxes on sweetened drinks – what’s wrong with switching to diet drinks?

    • Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Why don’t we just BAN cigarettes then? And if you say that an illegal trade will grow up, it will still reduce the rate of smoking. Or we could tax them at $20 per pack. Why not do that?

      • David Dunccan
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

        Banning doesn’t work, as we all know from the “War on Drugs”, plus I wouldn’t want to take away one of life’s “pleasures” from those people, just so long as they do it at home or with other smokers and they make a contribution to the additional cost they impose on the health system.

        I’m also not in favour of putting the price up so much that smuggling and black markets become a factor.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted June 11, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

          Your arguments are no more than personal prejudice – tax based on my opinion. I don’t like smoking so tax that. I like soda so don’t tax that. Drinking is bad so tax the hell out of that. Pollution is really bad so why not tax the hell out of gas. Oh, sorry, people love their cars.

          It would be far more interesting to have govt. tell us exactly where this tax they are collection really goes. Oh, yeah, nobody cares.

        • Pali
          Posted June 11, 2016 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

          As a smoker, I am perfectly fine with taxing cigs based on their health impact – provided we are consistent and tax EVERYTHING people do based on its health impact. So, since sports players suffer more injuries than most people, playing sports, even recreationally, should be taxed – say, taxes on footballs and helmets to help offset the cost of injuries.

          If we do not tax across the board, proportionally based on best available knowledge regarding how much each activity adds to health care costs, then we are not actually taxing because of the health impact of activities – instead we are trying to control behavior by selectively taxing things we don’t like, or we are cynically exploiting people’s dislike of activities to raise revenue under the cover of improving health.

          I want consistency here, nothing more. Either no sin taxes, or taxes on just about everything because just about everything has some degree of health risks involved. Not an equal degree, certainly, so again, I’m fully in favor of keeping such taxes proportional, and so smoking should have among the highest of these taxes – but it is quite unfair for my unhealthy activities to be taxed while the unhealthy activities of others are not.

          • Pali
            Posted June 11, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

            P.S. I am well-aware that politics makes such consistency impossible to achieve, so please consider the above to be an argument regarding ideology and approach rather than practical outcome – if the people arguing for cig taxes applied their reasoning more broadly, they wouldn’t annoy me even if in the end cig taxes were all they could pass. The problem is they don’t.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted June 11, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

              They annoy me and I stopped smoking several years ago. Some states have made the price of cigarettes nearly all taxes. Nothing is taxed more than cigs, even liquor. At the same time the tobacco farmers are subsidized. Pay them to grow something with our taxes and then tax the hell out of it.

              When my father died at age 88 and 9 months the doctor put on the death certificate among other assumptions that smoking was a cause of death. He stopped smoking 55 years before death. When the medical people and all those who desperately want to think that cigarettes kill everyone who even looked at a weed, no wonder so many die of smoking.

              • Pali
                Posted June 12, 2016 at 1:38 am | Permalink

                And to top it all off, these tend to be liberals happily ignoring that they are pushing a sales tax, one of the most regressive ways to tax around. When this is mentioned, the common response is “but we’re helping them quit!” While there is some truth to that, it is less helping than forcing, and the patronizing attitude behind it irritates me to no end.

              • Diane G.
                Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:12 am | Permalink

                “While there is some truth to that, it is less helping than forcing, and the patronizing attitude behind it irritates me to no end.”

                Yes, ‘patronizing’ is exactly the right word!

  7. Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    As J. P. Morgan said, there is always a good reason and the real reason. The real reason is the government needs revenue, and it must find a “good reason” in our anti-tax political climate.

  8. Dan
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Let them tax the signature Philadelphia cheese steaks. They are as unhealthy as they are delicious.

  9. Alan GE
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I think it was a good decision to do it in Mexico, though. It might be 12% less now, but for decades one would have a very hard time finding any family eating dinner without at least a couple of 2Ls of coke on the table.
    It became more of a staple than tortillas.

  10. boggy
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Sodas and other sugar-laden drinks cause dental caries, a totally preventable disease which is expensive to treat. If for no other reason, I am in favour of taxes on sodas.

    • Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      We should tax candy, too, then, right? Besides, most people pay for their own dental care, not the government.

      • Scott Draper
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        This really isn’t a good argument and I believe that you have rejected it in other contexts. Just because a proposed measure doesn’t address all possible evils doesn’t mean that it’s not helpful.

        • jeffery
          Posted June 13, 2016 at 9:10 am | Permalink

          I think what Jerry’s emphasizing here is how can you justify taxing one use of a substance that causes health problems while giving its other “manifestations” a free ride? Who determines which one gets taxed, and why? Isn’t it prejudicial to certain businesses to do so?
          No matter who pays for dental care, it could be argued that it costs society itself, in the long run: lost work, money spent that could have been used on other things, other health problems stemming from it that insurance DOES cover (oral infections have been linked to everything from arthritis to heart attacks)- if the government(s) started taxing, or banning, EVERYTHING that was potentially bad for us, our lives and society would change dramatically!

          • Scott Draper
            Posted June 13, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

            I think you’re making your own argument, not Jerry’s.

            • Diane G.
              Posted June 14, 2016 at 4:27 am | Permalink

              Au contraire, I think Jeffrey’s argument is quite compatible with Jerry’s.

              • Scott Draper
                Posted June 14, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

                Compatible has nothing to do with whether it’s the same argument. That’s a theologian’s mistake. 😉

              • Diane G.
                Posted June 14, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

                Mon Dieu!

                OK, I think Jeffrey’s first paragraph is an accurate paraphrase of the opinion Jerry’s expressed more than once in this post and thread.

                I hope that passes muster. 😀

      • Michael Finfer, MD
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        Many states levy sales taxes on candy.

        What gets me going is how irrational the definition is in the so-called simplified sales tax agreement. Because items that contain flour are not candy, you get items like Kit Kats, Nestle’s Crunch, and Milky Way bars that are considered to be candy by everyone but the government.

      • boggy
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        Yes, we should tax candy. Dental disease in the US may be paid for by the patient, but in most of Europe the cost, at least for children, is borne by the taxpayer. Therefore all taxes on sugar should go towards treatment of medical and dental related diseases.

  11. Heather Hastie
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I support high taxes on things like cigarettes because I live in a country with a publicly funded health system and smokers cost the system a lot and there’s no benefit to it. No one ever enjoys their first cigarette.

    I do not support soft drink (that’s what we call soda) taxes. Although Mexico has shown they reduce consumption, I’m not sure the reduction would be so great here or in any wealthy country. Also, the evidence is they don’t work to reduce obesity. The best average result I’ve heard is a reduction of approx 300 calories a year. At that rate it would take over 23 years for a person to lose 1kg, or just over 2lbs (7,000 cal/kg).

    It’s also ridiculous to focus on soft drinks when energy drinks, fruit juices, flavoured milk, and several other things are also full of sugar. And, as PCC(E) says, bottled water is just as much a problem in other ways when most of us have access to high quality water from the tap.

    Also there are many foods that are full of sugar, like most of the breakfast cereals etc people eat. And what about all the foods that are low in sugar, but high in fat? And then there’s all the things like highly processed foods – they’re not good for you either.

    If it’s a revenue raising thing, a sales tax would be much fairer. Or how about a tax on something only the wealthy buy like fur coats or hunting safaris or high-end cars.

    • Jay
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      Also, the evidence is they don’t work to reduce obesity. The best average result I’ve heard is a reduction of approx 300 calories a year. At that rate it would take over 23 years for a person to lose 1kg, or just over 2lbs (7,000 cal/kg).

      That “statistic” is nonsensical. A single large Coke at McDonald’s contains 300 kcal. So if a person drinks even one fewer large Coke per week, they could theoretically lose 1 kg in 23 weeks, not years.

      The problem with soft drinks, unlike solid foods, is that they don’t contribute to satiety; so when a person drinks a soft drink, the calories are added to the diet, rather than substituted for calories from other possible food choices.

      • Somite
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

        Not to mention many contain caffeine which also makes addictive, in addition to the inherent addictive properties of sugar.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        Personally I am satisfied when I drink a soft drink, though I acknowledge there’s no food value.

        If the place you’re regularly getting your soft drinks is part of a McD’s combo, I’d say human behaviour is such that a price increase would make absolutely no difference to it. It works in places like Mexico where people drink it in place of water and stick it on the dinner table, but not in other circumstances.

        Besides, as Jerry noted, Philadelphia is taxing diet soft drinks as well, which kinda scuttles the argument they’re doing it to reduce sugar intake.

        • Jay
          Posted June 11, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

          Personally I am satisfied when I drink a soft drink, though I acknowledge there’s no food value.

          That may be true for you, but research shows it’s not true in general.

          If the place you’re regularly getting your soft drinks is part of a McD’s combo, I’d say human behaviour is such that a price increase would make absolutely no difference to it. It works in places like Mexico where people drink it in place of water and stick it on the dinner table, but not in other circumstances.

          You’re speculating, but I’d be interested in seeing actual data on the subject, if you have any.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted June 11, 2016 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

            I don’t have any data, and never said I did, just what my expectation of human behaviour was so I can’t give you anything.

            • Jay
              Posted June 12, 2016 at 12:03 am | Permalink

              I didn’t say you claimed to have data, Heather. In case I wasn’t clear enough, I was criticizing your assertions because you had no data. You’re speculating (ie, making wild guesses) about human behavior, and stating them as facts.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

                I was speculating and didn’t say otherwise. There was no factual claim. As far as I’m concerned I was only expressing an opinion, which I stand by. I think increased prices work for things like cigarettes and alcohol, but not for soft drinks if your goal is to reduce obesity. They probably reduce the consumption of that item but the effects of that on obesity I believe would negligible.

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:18 am | Permalink

        The statistic Heather remembers could easily be the result of people deprived of soda finding other avenues to keep their sugar intake relatively constant.

    • Pali
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      “No one ever enjoys their first cigarette.”

      I did. If that were true, no one would smoke. To deny that people gain pleasure from smoking is, I think, absurd.

      • Kevin
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

        Lots of things can be despicable and later become unimaginably un-lived without:

        Whiskey, Wagner, Oolong, Sushi, etc.

        • Pali
          Posted June 11, 2016 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

          I will grant that many things are acquired tastes for many, but I would also dispute the notion that no one likes any of the things you listed the first time either. Whiskey I liked right from the start as well, though I still prefer vodka.

        • Posted June 11, 2016 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

          Okay…not good examples; decent point. People consume things because of social pressure until they decide they like them.

        • Diane G.
          Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:19 am | Permalink


      • Heather Hastie
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

        It’s an addiction, so the illusion of pleasure is there once hooked.

        • Pali
          Posted June 11, 2016 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

          Nonsense. I say again: I enjoyed my first cigarette. And my second, and my third. The nicotine buzz affects non-smokers far more than it does regular smokers (the pleasure per cig certainly goes down as you continue), and it was a sensation I enjoyed right from the start.

          Would you argue that heroin doesn’t cause pleasure, or alcohol, or any other mind-affecting drug? Because they do – that is what keeps people doing them long enough to get addicted in the first place. I wasn’t addicted by my first pack of cigs, or by my second pack, because developing an addiction is a long-term process that doesn’t stem from any single use of a substance. By my tenth pack, I was addicted – where exactly it happened I could not say.

          That the drugs are tricking our biochemistry into giving us sensations that we otherwise evolved to experience for other reasons in no way diminishes their ability to create those sensations. Pleasure is by its nature a subjective experience; what causes that experience has nothing to do with the reality of the experience.

          • Diane G.
            Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:23 am | Permalink

            Your experience is an anecdote though I do believe you, of course.

            But my experience echoes Heather’s statement. Many people in the old days wanted to smoke to “look cool,” or worldly, or in order to not gain weight.

            • pali
              Posted June 12, 2016 at 4:30 am | Permalink

              “Many people in the old days”

              This may be the key difference in our viewpoints – I have no idea how old either you or Heather are, of course, but I’m only 30 and I work with a lot of people in their early 20s, and while this remains in the anecdotal realm, as far as I can tell the social pressure to smoke has largely disappeared. The younger generation doesn’t think of it as cool anymore, and didn’t even when I was in school over a decade ago. If anything, the social pressure has reversed, and more people will disapprove of someone smoking than approve of it.

              What does get young people I’ve known smoking is a simple fact that applies to most recreational drugs: it works as advertised. As you allude to, smoking tends to work as an appetite suppressant – but it also helps with anxiety, focus, and alertness, as well as serving as a mild stimulant with a pleasant physical buzzing feeling. These are very real benefits to nicotine use – they come with horrible downsides, no doubt, but to pretend they don’t exist is not only denying reality but potentially works against anti-smoking campaigns by undermining their credibility and making it easier to paint them as social crusaders attempting to control behavior.

              • Diane G.
                Posted June 13, 2016 at 1:40 am | Permalink

                “If anything, the social pressure has reversed…”

                Oh, no doubt about it! And I totally agree with your second paragraph. I smoked for a decade myself.

                But do the anti-smoking-campaigners really “pretend they (the physical/mental satisfactions of smoking) don’t exist? Maybe some, I suppose, but I think most just want to stress the harmful effects, from the public health standpoint. Certainly all the myriads of manufacturers of quit-smoking aids and purported remedies and the quit-smoking counselors understand the pleasure people get from smoking.

                I’m Jerry’s age. 🙂 I believe that comparatively Heather’s just a vernal poult.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

            I don’t disagree with anything you said and don’t doubt your honesty about your personal experience. It’s just that for most people (and I shouldn’t have said nobody) there’s a lot of uncomfortable coughing and spluttering or major efforts not to in front of others. Most feel sick also. I can think of reasons that might not happen – it might not have happened to me since I was brought up in a household where both parents were heavy smokers. But you’re the first person I’ve ever come across who says they enjoyed their first. I genuinely find that really interesting and would like to know more about it if you’re okay sharing.

            • pali
              Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

              In truth, it’s very simple: I was curious about smoking, and asked a friend who smoked to show me how. He showed me the proper technique for taking a drag off a cig a couple of times before I tried it for myself, and so the coughing reaction that most suffer through was completely bypassed – so far as I can tell, the cough reaction is largely due to the throat being irritated by the smoke, and a proper drag concentrates the smoke into a small volume of air so that it moves through the throat quickly and with minimal irritation.

              I do acknowledge that a probable majority of smokers didn’t have as easy a time with their first – but I also think you hurt your case when you try to claim that smoking has zero benefits, that there is no sense of pleasure associated with it. These things are simply not true. While the first couple of smokes may not be the most pleasant, once you get the hang of taking a drag, smoking is quite pleasurable long before you’ve done it enough to be physically addicted, and stays pleasurable for some time after as well.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted June 12, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

                Interesting. Thanks. That explains a lot.

                Though (obviously) I hate smoking, it’s not a cause I’ve ever written about or anything, and if someone asked me what my “causes” were I doubt smoking would come to mind. As always with me though, I’m pretty free with expressing my opinion on most subjects! 🙂

                I want it to stop, and support our (NZ) government’s plan to wipe it out by 2025, which is going pretty well. However, I’m happy to leave the “cause” part to others.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 12, 2016 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

                Well, I don’t like ‘smoking’.

                I’ve never smoked cigarettes (except a few times when I was young to light fireworks). I’ve never minded other people smoking since I figure I’m not getting enough smoke to affect me (‘second-hand smoke’ propaganda notwithstanding). And my wife only smokes outside.

                But right now I keep smelling smoke, which I find quite unpleasant. Google tells me I have ‘parosmia’, which can be caused by nerve damage, which in turn can be caused by anything from a virus to a brain tumour. I kinda hope it isn’t, I’m rather fond of my brain.

                But anyway, it seems I’m getting the unpleasantness without any compensating pleasure, which is a bugger.


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      I would support sugar taxes (based on percentage of sugar).

      I quite agree that so-called ‘sports drinks’ are a con and a ripoff. (If I want a burst of energy I could mix up my own sugar water dirt cheap). But a tax based on sugar content would take care of that and soft drinks too.

      One thing we do have here in NZ (IIRC the food industry screamed – like they always do – when it was introduced about how it would double the price of food, curiously it doesn’t seem to have happened) is mandatory ‘dietary information’ labelling in the small print. My wife was diagnoised as ‘pre-diabetic’ a while back, our doctor’s public health nurse must have put the fear of G*d into her because she is now watching what she eats, and I’ve shown her how to check the ‘total sugars’ line on the packets when she shops.


      • Heather Hastie
        Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, industry group lobbying would be taken a lot more seriously if their complaints and claims were more reasonable.

  12. Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    I write a lot about the dangers of added sugar as opposed to fat consumption for cardiovascular disease as the skeptical cardiologist.

    AT the time of the SF and Berkely SSB tax my
    comments (
    “We certainly have a precedence for taxing products which individuals consume that science and society agrees are harmful such as alcohol and tobacco. Added sugar is different in that there are so many different vehicles for its delivery. Will taxing soda result in more candy and donut consumption?

    I’d like to see one or both of these measures pass and hopefully we can monitor closely the results in these northern California cities, gathering data on overall sugar consumption as well as sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. Hopefully, measures like these will lead to greater consumer awareness of the problem of added sugar and reduction in its consumption.”

    I’m still on the fence wrt taxes on added sugar vehicles but there is no reason to tax real foods like butter and meat.

    • colnago80
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      The problem with the tax in Berkeley is that anyone with a car can travel a relatively short distance into Oakland to purchase a six pack of soda. If there is going to be such a tax, it must be statewide.

    • dabertini
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Can you explain why a little sugar is dangerous but a little butter and meat is not.

  13. Dave
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Except on principle and for the obvious dishonesty of government in the Philly case, this would not be the tax I’d choose to get upset about. In my state (MN) there is a tax on books(!) and every once in awhile they bring up the idea of a tax on clothing. The really gets me bu the latter is an obscenity. Speaking of which, in my county the sales tax was raised to help fund a new stadium for the Twins! Now that is worth getting upset over!

    • Dave
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      EDIT!! The ‘former’ really gets me ‘but’ …

      • Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        Blasphemy!! To tax books. We should be finding ways to get more books into the hands of more people. Maybe, some non-profits that could buy them in bulk for a reduced cost to distribute to people who normally don’t have access to book and/or can’t afford them.

        I’m not quite as irate about taxing clothing but am still agin’ it. What reasonable rationale can there be?

        • colnago80
          Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

          In most jurisdictions I am familiar with, sales taxes are applied to clothing and shoes. The only exception I am aware of is Pennsylvania, where the outlet malls advertise themselves as being clothing/shoe tax free.

          • Michael Finfer, MD
            Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

            New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Minnnesota do not tax clothing. Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York do not tax less expensive clothing, each with a different definition of what less expensive is.

            • colnago80
              Posted June 11, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

              Fair enough. I am familiar with Pennsylvania as I used to occasionally drive up there to shop at the outlet malls.

  14. Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I recently read an article stating that soft
    drink consumption had decreased significantly. I thought it was in Consumer Reports but can’t find it quickly enough at the moment. However, there is a NY Times article from October 2, 2015 titled “The Decline of ‘Big Soda’ ” “In the last 20 years, sales of full calorie sodas have plummeted by more than 25%.” In contrast, bottled water consumption has increased (not relieving the numbers of plastic bottles going to the dump.)

    Another issue with soft drinks is that certain caramel flavored soft drinks include 4-methylimidazole (4-mel)and it is a carcinogen. We need laws with teeth and the willingness to use them to permanently get rid of potentially hazardous chemicals in our foods.

  15. Aldo Matteucci
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    The American Diabetes Association (Association) released new research on March 6, 2013 estimating the total costs of diagnosed diabetes have risen to $245 billion in 2012 from $174 billion in 2007, when the cost was last examined. This includes $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in reduced productivity (and one does not speak of a lessened quality of life).

    The link between diabetes 2 and obesity is well established. Soda drinks significantly contribute to obesity.

    As long as health care is paid through either private or public insurance programs, we all contribute to paying for treating diabetes 2 either through taxes or health insurance rates.

    It would seem reasonable to create disincentives to consumption of soda and raise taxes to pay for the costs of treatment. Personally, I would have preferred subtle means – nudging rather than taxes – but this is would be a discussion on means, not ends.

    Scientific thinking demands an understanding of the hidden consequences of actions. This would seem an evident case for eschewing ideology – libertarian or otherwise.

    • Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      Shouldn’t we also have tax disincentives to candy, cookies, red meat, and butter? Why diet soda?
      You mention the costs but not the more intangible benefits people get from drinking soda. I guess you count that as worth nothing.

      • Michael Finfer, MD
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        I think we can have discussions about things like candy and cookies, but ancestors have been eating red meat for a very long time, and I think that the discussions about risks of eating red meat contain a fair amount of fear mongering. For example, there was a recent discussion in the press about how the consumption of red meat raises one’s life time risk of colon cancer by around 20%. That’s all well and good, but the life time risk of colon is about 5% and raising that risk by 20% raises the lifetime risk to 6%.

        I think we need to me careful and make sure that our discussions are nuanced and reality based. For the moment, I think there is general, but not universal, agreement that candy and soda can be taxed. I would be very reluctant to go beyond that, but I will note that Professor Ceingin Cat-Emeritus lives in a state in which sales taxes are levied on all food for human consumption.

        • colnago80
          Posted June 11, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

          Food is subject to the sales tax in Virginia albeit at a rate 1/2 that of other purchases.

        • dabertini
          Posted June 11, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

          And there is no fear mongering going on wrt to sugar consumption?! I am pretty sure we’ve been eating sugar for as long as we have been eating meat.

          • Zado
            Posted June 11, 2016 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

            Actually, we haven’t–at least not in any amount that’s remotely analogous to our average consumption nowadays. The amount of high-fructose corn syrup in our current food supply is downright unnatural.

            • dabertini
              Posted June 11, 2016 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

              And the amount of meat that we eat? High fructose corn syrup is sugar. Natural has lost all meaning. Sugar has been wrongfully villified at the expense of other foods. Too much of anything is bad. What about salt? Processed food is full of it. What about sf? The science is clear: we eat too much food. Too much carb, too much protein, too much fat. The avearage person would be horrified to learn how much food and the type that is needed to maintain healthy body weight!!

      • Aldo Matteucci
        Posted June 12, 2016 at 12:16 am | Permalink

        A tax is not a prohibition.

        To make an analogy from biology (Jacob), a tax is akin to a repressor, which modulates the expressor in order to achieve a proper balance between the personal and social interest (Hirschman).

        Personally, I would prefer nudges (Thaler, Sunstein) but you also refuse on ideological grounds the ban on large soda servings in New York, which aimed at reframing group (not individual) behavior.

  16. Stonyground
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Sin taxes are a really bad idea.

    Firstly, in an information rich environment people are fully equipped to make their own decisions about what they eat and drink and about how much they exercise. We are adults! Are we really happy for our governments to treat us like children? Or is it that we are adults but government intervention is needed for all those stupid people who don’t know any better.

    Secondly, the end result of the sin tax is that the government ends up being dependent on the sinners to balance the books. In the UK the powers that be have been making themselves look ridiculous with their rabid opposition to vaping as an alternative to smoking. High taxes on cigarettes were supposedly there to discourage people from smoking. Along comes a relatively harmless alternative to smoking that is a hundred times more effective than the sin tax could ever be, and the government is against it. I wonder why?

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:30 am | Permalink

      Excellent point!

  17. Tom Brewster
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Obesity in this country is a major public health problem with significant personal and family morbidity and mortality. Sugar is addictive. How do you get individuals to eat and drink in moderation? Any other suggestions on behavioral economic approaches?

    • Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      We should put a 100% tax on McDonald’s and other fast-food hamburgers and fries, too, right? Because obesity is a major public health problem, and we need the government to control what people can eat.

      • A
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        We the people are the government. So, yeah — sometimes.

        • Achrachno
          Posted June 11, 2016 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

          Sorry. That “A” person was me with a defective name entry.

      • Tom Brewster
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

        Choose your parents wisely

      • Jay
        Posted June 11, 2016 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

        I never thought of it before, but a tax based on calories of junk food or junk food-ingredients doesn’t sound like such a bad idea to me—although I don’t think I would put hamburgers or even French fries in that category.

  18. Scott Draper
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I have trouble getting upset about this tax; I view those who walk around with gallon cups of soda as being very foolish.

    Soda is shoved on you by a variety of social forces. When you first sit down in a restaurant, they want to bring you your drink. That means you sit there sipping soda for however long it takes your meal to be prepared, which could be 30-40 minutes. That might require a refill. And many restaurants want to prepare a soda for you to take with you as you leave.

    I always request that my drink be brought with the meal; this is apparently unusual enough that servers tend to remember me, and I have never, ever taken a soda with me as I left. I drink sodas with food and when the food is gone, I stop.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:32 am | Permalink

      Well, a tax on foolishness would make much more sense!

      “And many restaurants want to prepare a soda for you to take with you as you leave.”

      Wow, I’ve *never* run into that!

      • Scott Draper
        Posted June 12, 2016 at 11:01 am | Permalink

        “Wow, I’ve *never* run into that!”

        Ah, is that sarcasm or truth?

        • Alexander
          Posted June 12, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

          When I lived in the Netherlands during the 1970s there was a proposal to tax people according to their intelligence (IQ). Those with a higher IQ would have more chances in life and therefore should pay more taxes. I could just imagine someone talking to a tax inspector: “heu…err…what?…what are you saying… Percentage, err…what is that?…”

          • Scott Draper
            Posted June 12, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink

            Whoever proposed that was probably trying to get out of paying any tax whatsoever.

  19. Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Sugar is poison, so limit it. Tazing it will help.

  20. Dianne Marie Leonard
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I happen to live in Berkeley, which has a soda tax. I remember when this was on the ballot. The big soda companies put their literature all over the city–including inside my screen door. Thankfully, I was able to get the multiple flyers out because I’ve got a long-handled grabber (left over from my hip replacement.) I was so pissed at this littering, which was all over the streets and inside everyone’s doors, that I went to the other units in my building and offered to get rid of the litter inside their screen doors too. Then had a good talk with each tenant about how much we hated littering, and how voting *for* the soda tax was a way of getting back to these litterbugs. The tax passed by over 2/3 (required for taxes under California law). So you can’t just say that people wanted to be nannies of other people. There were a lot of normal people (like the ones in my complex) who were just fed up with the big companies telling us what to do, and littering their “literature” all over the place. I don’t know if the tax will lower the number of such drinks sold, but I do know California’s tax on cigarettes has lowered the number of smokers. (This from a person whose sister died of lung cancer at 55, because she’d been smoking since college.)Both of these products cause health problems. My sister didn’t stop smoking even after the cigarettes became more expensive, but many people did.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:39 am | Permalink

      “Then had a good talk with each tenant about how much we hated littering, and how voting *for* the soda tax was a way of getting back to these litterbugs.”

      “There were a lot of normal people (like the ones in my complex) who were just fed up with the big companies telling us what to do…”

      With that argument, it seems to me you should have been lobbying for postal/advertising regulations, or cutting corporate tax breaks, or going after “Big Sugar,” rather than the poor Pepsi purchaser.

  21. Tumara Baap
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    The rise of Type 2 diabetes is shocking and constitutes a national crisis. It will wreck havoc on healthcare systems for myself and my children. A major culprit are the worthless sugar calories in soft drinks. Interestingly, a scholar like Daniel Lieberman could frame much in terms of human evolution – how profoundly social our species is, and how intrinsic it is to think beyond our own noses and address challenges collectively as a broader group. And how insidious the diseases of dysevolution are, whereby are bodies and impulses are so pitifully ill-suited to the modern era they give rise to a health tragedy of epic scale.

    The role of government is to provide co-operation and co-ordination amongst a people that would elude a lone individual. Soda taxes are precisely the sort of thing a government should be doing. Make a list of all the sources of tax revenue and conversely a list things taxes and subsidies fund and enable. Yes, taxes are a fact of life and the manner in which this game is played is sad and nauseating.In this context a tax that imposes a nominal burden on the individual and encourages good outcomes on a national scale is something we should be crazy-loco enthusiastic about.

    I take a rather dim view of slippery slope scare tactics. One can approach taxes with a granular analysis of cost and benefits. It is possible to conceive of a tax or a regulation that gets it just right. This applies to gun regulation as it does to disease causing sugar consumption. Mexico could have levied any tax up to several hundred percent. They went with 1%. And it seems they got it just right.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:52 am | Permalink

      Why are we not lobbying against the ability of people to make their own decisions, then? Why limit the scope of your argument to just one product?

      What we do need is an amendment to the first amendment prohibiting the government from making any law against the freedom of diet.

  22. barn owl
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    That last photo reminds me that I need to pick up a 12-pack of TAB next time I go grocery shopping ….

  23. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    I am proud to note that, despite the sugar industry being against, Sweden will most likely institute a tax on any product containing sugar.

    We are currently consuming on average 5 times the recommended amount, so this will have statistical health benefits according to the medical experts.

    These “nanny taxes” are a slippery slope toward government standardization of diets

    Why would they be? Eating standardized diets are unhealthy!

  24. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Maybe the moral to this story is – behavior taxing is wrong, it’s degrading and most of the time it does not really accomplish anything. In the end, it is like censorship and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Most states took the sales tax off of food purchased in the grocery store. The reason – because poor people need to eat so why make more money off of what people must do…eat. So now, after taking the sales tax off, the food police come in and start taxing the stuff again. It’s just crap and wrong.

    Watching TV is bad for you so lets tax that. Gambling is stupid so lets tax that. The rich folks want to have a second home in Florida or Hawaii so make sure they get to deduct that second home mortgage. Donald Trump won’t show you his tax returns because he doesn’t pay any.

  25. barn owl
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    A few of the diet soda studies, and many, many calorie restriction/healthspan studies, have been conducted at my university. By remarkable coincidence, the majority of PIs and researchers for such studies don’t appear to be taking the results seriously as guidance for their own dietary decisions, and in fact many are obese (a few morbidly so). If the results of these studies are so compelling that they are to be used to inform public health policy for the rest of us, why do the researchers seem to be ignoring them for their personal health?

    If the above sounded catty and judgmental, well, yes it is, perhaps, but then I’m tired of people getting in my face about drinking approximately 12 oz. of diet soda each day. As a physically active person of normal weight, who runs, swims, bikes, and/or walks every single day and eats a lowfat diet, I’m unlikely to suddenly gain 30 pounds and develop type 2 diabetes, just because I drank a can of Diet Coke.

  26. David Baca
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    I see nothing untoward about government poking its nose into citizens’ drinking habits to motivate healthier diets and or to raise revenue at the same time. Slapping a consumption tax on soda pop,smokes or booze is just what the doctor ordered. Cheers!

  27. Dave
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    So the basic question is, should governments promote healthy lifestyles by subsidizing healthy foods/activities and levying punitive taxes on bad behaviors? My answer is yes, if government (taxpayers) is also expected to pick up the tab for the damages caused by the bad behaviors. Government already tries to promote good behaviors through various advertising. Where I live, we have a fabulous network of bike trails that sometimes come under threat from Republicans who can’t see the benefits (they like lots of big roads, though).

  28. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    As Mr. Harrison paraphrased Mr. Wilson and Mr. Heath:

    If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street
    If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat
    If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat
    If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet

    Count me as skeptical on the efficacy of tax codes as instruments of social policy.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 12, 2016 at 2:56 am | Permalink

      Perfect! 🙂

  29. Posted June 11, 2016 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    If better health trumps freedom, why not require everyone do the Physical Jerks every morning?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

      Fuck that. (And who says physical jerks is good for your health?)

      But I’d be quite okay with a requirement for everybody to get a necessary amount of exercise – doing some activity of their own choice at time(s) of their choosing – each week. (Me, I’d walk).

      Still, encouragement would be better than compulsion.


      • Posted June 11, 2016 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

        Big Brother says.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted June 12, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

          Encouragement instead of compulsion is more Brave New World than 1984.

  30. grad student
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Sugar should be taxed at two levels: consumer and producer.

    Tax the producer for every gram added and then tax the consumer as well.

    60+% of our population (US) is obese or overweight. Something needs to be done.

    Taxes are one of the best tools we the people have to discourage crappy behavior.

  31. zl84841g
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m seeing a myth repeated in the comments here. Fat consumption is not deleterious for human health. If you believe this, you are misinformed. Sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption, in contrast, are deleterious to health. Nina Teicholz wrote a book that explains why fatty foods belong in a healthy diet. It’s called The Big Fat Surprise (

    disclaimer: I have no connection with Teicholz. I have read the book.

    • Jay
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

      And if it’s in a book, in must be true.

    • dabertini
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      And what are nina teicholz’s credentials? She has done a lot of cherry picking and plagiarizing in her book. And we have come full circle with diets. First it was low fat high carb and now there is a group of pseudoscientists who insist on a high animal fat diet (no less) and low carb. Good luck with that. See dr. Harriet hall, the skep doc and thescienceofnutrition website for a clear and concise debunking of these claims.

    • Kevin
      Posted June 11, 2016 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

      Fat free anything that is not supposed to be fat free is foul for health and tongue.

  32. Dale Franzwa
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Just don’t tax my weekly glass of lemonade, especially pink lemonade.

  33. Posted June 12, 2016 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    Oh, the soda-phobes, desperate to take down diet soda right along with sugary soda for no other reason than it it still called “soda”.

  34. Posted June 12, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Besides simply being yet another way for the gluttonous state to support itself (talk about obesity!) Soda taxes are impractical. (Anecdotally by personal observation) Most soda purchases are made at well over market value. Soda machines already charge twice as much as a grocery store, and people are more than willing to pay over $2 for a large, unlimited refill soda with their dollar cheeseburger, and sometimes $3 at a restaurant to go with their low-fat salad. This is how restaurants make their money and nobody pays attention to those prices when their looking at the entrees. How do these taxes impact restaurants? They’ll get taxed, massage the tax into their pricing model, average then into the drink cost and raise beverage prices 50 cents (25 for the tax, 25 for them, sorry folks, you know, government). Since non-soda drinks like iced tea (sweet tea is disgusting, it doesn’t count) are generally charged the same, non-soda drinkers will be “taxed” as well, and it will all be absorbed into the norm. If you’re willing to pay double for the convenience of a cold soda at a gas station or a vending machine, you won’t mind 20 more cents. And as I said, rather than rewrite their POS models to track soda ounces and require servers to track refills, restaurants will just absorb the average and pass on the buck.

    Just more clueless government meddling without forethought. It’s not like cigarettes where the tax is felt directly by the consumer, soda has a much more diverse delivery network that masks the consumer from the much of the burden. Your have to tightly regulate soda sales much like cigarettes before you can levy strong taxes as a deterrent. If cigarettes were handed out in all you can smoke quantities at bars for an already ridiculous markup as a way to subsidize food and alcohol sales, then taxes on cigarettes would be less helpful. I’m also pretty sure that the Mexican market is vastly different than the American one in the way that consumers purchase soda. One commenter mentioned 2 liter bottles at the dinner table, while that is probably the case here, Americans are fast food and restaurant junkies. It has also been pointed out that soda sales have declined in recent years, and that’s likely due to education and negative attention on sugar intake. Perhaps should put more effort into that rather than useless taxes that don’t take into account market models.

  35. W.Benson
    Posted June 12, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    The tax will be used, so it seems, for the upkeep of city parks, including golf courses.

  36. jeffery
    Posted June 13, 2016 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    “The city finance director also admitted during the hearing that the soda-tax revenue wouldn’t be used just to fund kindergartens parks, and the like, but would be used to fill in general lacunae in the city budget. In other words, the city lied when proposing it.”

    – I doubt if there has ever been one instance of a tax (lottery, etc.) whose revenue is “earmarked” for some usually worthy-sounding cause (“education” is the standard one) where the greedy politicians DIDN’T immediately start looking for ways to divert those monies to their own “pet” agendas or to cover shortfalls due to their own bad financial planning.

  37. Kun Lin
    Posted June 13, 2016 at 2:40 pm | Permalink check out this paper, diet drinks aren’t as healthy as people think or the companies make them out to be either. But a sugared drink tax does seem pretty ridiculous

  38. Posted June 16, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Question: What’s to stop people from making their own soda?

    I have cut soft drinks down to once every two weeks in my efforts to loose weight. BUT that is because I am trying to loose weight for MYSELF. When I was doing it for my parents, they even tried paying me, I would eventually fall off, and STAY off, the wagon.
    If this continues to spread much further I will drink as much Soda as I can in protest, and if it comes to MY area (unlikely given where I live) I will make my OWN soda to deny them the taxation revenue. Tax sugar I will find a way to make it from fruit. To me it is the principle of the thing.

  39. Posted June 16, 2016 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    How do I get told of new comments for JUST this thread?

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      After you type your comment, click the “Notify me of new comments via email” box below the comment window before you hit “Post.”

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