Taxes on Sugar Sweetened Drinks: a Public Health win?

Taxes on Sugar Sweetened Drinks

What are your thoughts on taxes on sugar sweetened drinks? Some folks call it the sugar tax or the soda tax. People tend to have strong feelings about taxation, particularly about taxes that may interfere with personal choice. My guess is how you feel about taxation ties into your personal philosophy on what the role of government should be. In my view, all views are A-okay, and we should encourage people to express their opinions! Any policy related to taxes for the “public’s health” need to be accepted (or at the least, tolerated) by the population. If they are not accepted or tolerated, pushing through such a tax would most likely lead to conflict.

Why are we even pondering a tax on artificially sweetened drinks? It’s because sugar-sweetened drinks are at the root of the chronic disease epidemic we currently face. They are not the sole cause, no, but they are significantly linked to increased chronic disease and poor health outcomes. This is an epidemic that affects both young and old, but perhaps most concerning is the increased rate of chronic illnesses in young people. I am referring to rising rates of obesity, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic pain, depression and anxiety.

To help unravel the research around the effectiveness of taxes on sugar sweetened drinks, I spoke with Dr. Scott Kaplan on a recent Causes or Cures episode. He conducted research on the effectiveness of this tax by looking at what happened in five major US cities. He describes the outcomes from both an economic perspective and a health one. And I must say, it gets really interesting to find the point at which the economic outcomes are linked to the health outcomes.

And of course he addresses the reasons for which people are critical of these taxes. Some of those reasons include that they are too “big brotherish”, they take away from personal choice and responsibility and they disproportionately target the poor. He also mentions how the sugar-sweetened beverage industry feels and the pushback he gets from them. What he says is so interesting. In fact, after you listen to the podcast, I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts. Leave in the comment section below, or if you prefer, on one of my social media sites.

Who is our guest?
Dr. Kaplan is an applied microeconomist whose research interests include consumer behavior and food and health policy. He is an Assistant Professor in the Economics Department at the United States Naval Academy.

You can listen to the episode here! 

Also, please check out some of the other Causes or Cures Episodes! This is a great one with Dr. Paul Sutter on scientific fraud and what needs to happen to rebuild trust in science.

Thanks for reading!


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