The obesity has been recognized as a major health crisis in America and different solutions have been proposed by the stakeholders. While most stakeholder groups may agree obesity needs to be tackled on a priority basis, they may not always agree on the proposed solutions. One of the proposed solutions is taxes on the soda and sugary drinks and as expected, this proposal has its fair share of supporters and the opponents.
Kelly Brownell, dean and professor of public policy at Duke University’s Stanford School of Public Policy, represents the case for tax on soda and other sugary drinks. Kelly argues taxes have often been used to raise towards advancing the health standards of the society and often with success such as in the case of the cigarettes. Kelly reminds us many U.S. states as well as other countries have taxed the soda and other sugary drinks. She particularly points out Mexico where the consumption of the sugary beverages declined by 6 percent despite the 6% tax being half the originally proposed rate. Kelly does concede the potential of black market but she doesn’t think the problem will be large enough to reduce the effectiveness of taxes on soda and sugary drinks .

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William Shughart II, professor in public choice at Utah State University’s John M. Huntsman School of Business, presents the case against the tax on soda and other sugary drinks. William is skeptical the taxes on the soda and the sugary drinks will reduce the consumption by a level that justifies such a policy. He believes a tax policy is bound to fail because low taxes do not significantly discourage the behavior they target and high taxes only lead to black markets. William is also concerned about the inefficiency of the bureaucracy that may simply waste the tax revenue. He is not convinced diet soda beverages are healthier alternatives to the regular versions, and he doesn’t think the war on soda will generate any gains in the war on obesity .

I believe the taxes should be imposed on the soda and other sugary drinks. First of all, the soda and sugary drinks are consumed on such a grand scale that even if the black markets emerge, they will be able to cater to the needs of only so many people. The taxes on cigarettes are high in New York City and some people do get cigarettes in the black market but the number of people buying cigarettes in the black market cannot compare to the number of people who obtain cigarettes through legal avenues. If the black markets become large enough, they will only attract the attention of the law enforcement authorities.

William argues the burden will disproportionately fell on the low income groups. Even if it is true, it is not entirely a bad thing. The soda and other sugary drinks impose health costs and the low income groups are the least likely to have the resources to deal with the implications of obesity and related health issues.

While I support the position taken by Kelly, I do believe William’s good arguments should not be ignored. Thus, one way to increase the effectiveness of taxes on soda and other sugary drinks may be to include the diet versions as well. Even if we agree with Kelly that there is not enough literature to reach a reliable conclusion on the health effects of diet sodas, including diet sodas may still be worthwhile. First of all, it may be easier to secure the support of opponents like William. Second, including diet sodas in the tax proposal may help strengthen the stigma against the consumption of soda and other sugary drinks.

    References
  • Brownell, Kelly. Should There Be a Tax on Soda and Other Sugary Drinks? 12 July 2015. 11 November 2016 .
  • Shughart II, William. Should There Be a Tax on Soda and Other Sugary Drinks? 12 July 2015. 11 November 2016 .