Taxing Soda?

km123's picture

Is taxing soda really an answer to solving the city's budget crisis? What do you think?

nblackburn's picture

While it obviously will not

While it obviously will not single-handedly end the budget crisis, it could generate extra revenue. The only dangerous part is that if the tax is too high it could act as a deterrent, which would be good for public health, but not solving the budget deficit.


I think a soda tax will work well, just like any other sin tax.

zoobie48's picture

it's a win-win! Good for

it's a win-win! Good for public health, extra money--do it!

Zaquex's picture

Fruit & Vegetables $ > Soda $

All for it since our fruits and vegetables cost more than a can of soda or a candy bar. Not saying that Jamba Juice and other fruit juice companies are completely healthy though--it's true that they do have a lot of sugar.

bobbyh's picture

Where would it end?

If we are to tax soda, what about candy bars, what about steaks, french fries, ice cream, hamburgers etc. etc.  You can't just tax one product that is part of the problem and hope to make a difference, and the reality is that you can't tax everything that is bad for you!  This is a grossly misguided policy that I hope people realize is a steep slippery slope. 

Instead of trying to tackle every "bad" food and stop people from eating them by hitting them in the pocketbooks, which by the way is totally regressive because the rich can still eat those foods but the poor won't have that option, let's educate people about healthy eating practices, let's change the food that we serve our kids in schools to build healthy habits and tastes, let's promote exercise, expand after school sports, etc.  Those are real solutions.

With all due respect, taxing soda is just a lazy knee-jerk response to a problem that is much bigger and needs serious attention, not a poorly thought out one-off policy that just makes some politicians feel like they accomplished something.  Let's roll up our sleeves and do the hard work, our (and our kids') health depend on it.

Eric Jaye's picture

Pay as you go


Right now we subsidize industrial corn production - and then have to pay again when the High Fructose Corn Syrup that is the refined product of this industrial agriculture creates health hazards. 

If the producers were not taking the subsidies I would be more sympathetic. But it seems very troubling to me that we have to pay to help create a dangerous product and then pay again after the product creates health risks.

Zaquex's picture

Experts say otherwise

Washington city-council member Mary Cheh describes her reasons for taxing soda under the Healthy Schools Act to raise money and kill two birds (lack of funding and obesity) with one stone (attacking sugary drinks). "The amount of soda the typical American drinks has grown by roughly 500% over the past 60 years, and of the 250 to 300 calories a day Americans have, on average, added to their diets since the late 1970s, nearly half have come from sugared drinks...but if we were going to only target one thing to make a material difference, soda would be it."

Read more:,9171,2001013,00.html#ixzz0vDFLwLDE

Additionally, "A review conducted by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity suggested that for every 10 percent increase in price, consumption decreases by 7.8 percent. The National Academy of Science and Institute of Medicine also believe a tax could help slash obesity rates." More studies have been done by Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service has released. Here's a link to a very through report.

People wouldn't stop drinking soda, people would just be smarter about it.

mattgould's picture

I enjoy my occasional soda

I enjoy my occasional soda pop, but would be willing to pay a few extra cents if it went toward educating youth on the benefits of an active lifestyle. Plus, every time I walk by a high school I see soda cans everywhere... some crushed into the ground, some being blown down local streets... water bottles and juice boxes are no better, but there may be some environmental relief here as well.

bobbyh's picture


Instead of taxing a Coke, or Pepsi, or other targeted sodas, I would suggest a compromise between different camps on this: tax high fructose corn syrup.  That is ultimately the culprit in so many of the foods and drinks that people consume which are making this country, and the world, obese.  It's in everything these days (if you haven't seen the movie King Corn, check it out) because it is cheap, and a tax there would force manufacturers to consider other options in making their products.  Same thing goes for trans-fats.  Tax the less desirable inputs that go into these products so its not a matter of government taxing your Coke, and not your Sunny Delight, which is just as bad, but rather shifting the cost structure for manufacturers to make it less economical to use those products.

Honestly, I would rather see an incentive structure here as I think that always works best because you can control outcomes to a larger degree. I.e. if you tax something, you never know what people will turn to in replacing it....could be worse!  When you incentivize good things (i.e. tax break for producing low-fat, high fiber, low sugar, etc. foods), you know what will be produced!

Rich's picture


This is what I hate about you liberals, "I don't like it, so no one else should!"

If people want to drink soda, that's their choice. Let's talk about how our tax dollars are wasted!

Look at all the taxes on gasoline, now look at the conditions of the streets of San Francisco- it's disgusting! Where is the money generated from the gas taxes? It certainly has not been used to improve the streets!

CJC's picture

I think Bobby has a good

I think Bobby has a good point, where will it end? Burgers, Fries, high-salt, high fat microwave meals. Why not?! An across the board junk food tax is not such a bad idea. We tax things that we see as societal 'bads'. We tax alcohol in part as a deterrent and partly to raise taxes to deal with the problems alcohol creates. We do the same with cigarettes. And we will certainly do the same with cannabis if prop 19 goes through. Heart disease and obesity are as pressing problems as liver disease and lung cancer and so taxing junk foods as a deterrent is a smart move. Rich is wrong when he says this is about Liberals trying to stop others from doing what they don't. I love a good Steak, just as I love a coke, just as I love a beer. That's not to say I have a constitutional right to consume these things as cheaply as possible. I am willing to pay for such luxuries.

Bobby also makes a good point that this would be a regressive tax that punishes poor people, putting junk food out of their economic range. However, we live in a society in which this junk food is cheaper than nutritious food. Where milkyways are cheaper than bananas. Where coke of far cheaper than fruit juice. Currently there is an incentive for the poor to eat unhealthily because it is cheaper. It has left us in the ironic state of having a fat poor and a skinny rich (obviously a massive generalization, but with some foundation). This JUNK TAX however gives us the opportunity to SUBSIDIZE HEALTHY FOODS so that we can INCENTIVIZE healthy eating. This is progressive.

Ron's picture

Its an interesting proposal,

Its an interesting proposal, though I do think its has to potential to be more trouble than its worth. If there was a way to ensure that the $$$ generated would go specifically to something (like education or health-related), then maybe... otherwise my concern is more bureaucracy, more taxes and then just more wasted revenue.
Bernadette's picture

Subsidies, Price & Quality Competition, Tax Money Accountability

I agree with EddieTorture and Rich. With Eddie, I also think that subsidies should be removed from agricultural products such as corn. Rather than have the prices be cheap because we're actually, in a way, collectively paying for the products in advance through the taxpayer money going into the subsidies, the prices should be cheap (or at least fair/rational) because the farmers must compete with each other for customers through a lower prices and/or higher quality for the price already requested.

As with Rich, I agree that maybe we shouldn't keep making more taxes until we figure out where the millions of dollars of tax money we already pay is going. We must make sure that we keep the city spenders accountable to our needs and requests.

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