Americans love their soda. We spend $56 billion on sugar-laden soft drinks every year and one federal official wants to tap into that giant pool of cash. He’s proposing a soda tax based on the amount of sugar in a given drink (scary fact: the average person eats 175 lbs of sugar every year).
Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, proposed the tax in a recent press briefing, noting that soda is one of the primary reasons Americans are overweight. “[It] plays a particular role in the obesity epidemic,” he said.
Soda wouldn’t be the first bad habit to be taxed with health benefits in mind. Higher taxes on cigarettes have led to a decrease in adult smoking by about 25% and a decrease in smoking among teens by 50%, Frieden said.
Along those lines, industry experts predict that higher soda prices will strongly discourage people from consuming soda and sugar-sweetened beverages, Frieden added. And that revenue could help offset the rising costs of preventable health conditions like obesity.
While the proposed tax aims to improve the health of Americans by deterring consumers from drinking the sugary stuff, it could have an unintended consequence: penalizing those who are already hard-up for cash.
That’s because soda is often cheaper than healthier beverages like fruit juice, according to FoodRoutes, a non-profit organization devoted to educating consumers about food and its origins. A tax on soda could have the most impact on people who aim to get more beverage for their money.