Childhood Obesity: Will a Tax on Soda Help Curb the Trend?

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
  • Much has been said and much has been written about soda being bad for our health. Scientific evidence has shown that sugar-sweetened drinks are the single greatest source of calories in the United States. And the average American drinks about 50 gallons of soda or other sweetened beverages a year. 

    Calories from soda are one of the leading causes of weight gain in this country, and more than one-third of all sugars consumed in the U.S. are from sugar-sweetened drinks. In addition, each daily serving of soda increases a child's risk for obesity by 60 percent. 

    Finally, the average size of a soda has more than doubled since the 1950s - from 6.5 ounces to 16.2 ounces. Then, of course, we have the myriad of obesity-related diseases to consider. When all this info is rolled out, it makes for a pretty convincing argument as to why avoiding soda is a good idea. Some schools have gone as far as banning drinks with a high sugar content. And some businesses have removed sugar-sweetened drinks from their vending machines. 

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    Another idea for combating sugary drinks is to put a tax on soda based on the belief that it will help reduce childhood obesity.        

    The Yeas Have It

    A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine aimed to determine which of three strategies would best help to reduce obesity in youngsters over the course of 20 years concluded that a soda tax would be most beneficial.    

    Researchers selected three of a proposed 26 federal policies for review. The three policies selected were after school physical activities, a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, and a ban on fast food television advertising targeted for children. Literature from between 2000 and 2012 was reviewed and models were created to estimate the impact of each policy. 

    It was discovered that after-school activity programs would reduce obesity among children aged 6-12 by 1.8 percent, an advertising ban would reduce obesity by 0.9 percent, and a tax on sugary drinks would reduce obesity among adolescents aged 13-28 by 2.4 percent.

    The Nays Have It

    Although the soda tax was considered to be the best option, agreement was hardly universal. Health economist Jason Fletcher of the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison believes that taxing soda will not help to improve health. Fletcher states older studies relied on household data instead of individual consumption patterns. It had been assumed that people didn't replace the calories in soda with calories from another source.       

    Fletcher pointed out that the study he participated in showed that while increases in soft drink taxes did correlate with less soda consumption, there was no reduction in calorie intake. He also said that taxes on soft drinks had such little effect on body mass index that the reduction was not statistically significant.

    All in all, the best advice is old advice. Eat healthy, exercise, and avoid sugary beverages simply because they aren't as healthy. 


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Published On: October 17, 2014