Taxing Soda and Pizza to Combat Obesity?

This courtesy of Reuters today:

“CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. researchers estimate that an 18 percent tax on pizza and soda can push down U.S. adults’ calorie intake enough to lower their average weight by 5 pounds (2 kg) per year.

The researchers, writing in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine on Monday, suggested taxing could be used as a weapon in the fight against obesity, which costs the United States an estimated $147 billion a year in health costs.”

We had written about this proposal once before here at the Allen School Online blog, when the proposed tax was put forth in New York State.  Now it seems the idea has taken hold nationwide.  I can sort of see the value in taxing sodas, which contain ungodly quantities of sugar in a single serving.  I might suggest taxing all items that contain high fructose corn syrup (but that will never fly because our government pays huge subsidies to corn farmers to produce this deadly sugar.)  Furthermore, soda is sold by all restaurants and groceries so a tax on soda would at least be equitably distributed across all foodservice and sales businesses.  However, I draw the line of fairness at singling out pizza for additional taxation.  What, do obese people not overeat fried chicken?  Chinese food buffet?  Ice cream sundaes? Why discriminate against pizzeria owners for this new tax?  Eating pizza specifically is not the only driver of obesity.

I could live with a soda tax,but to start singling out individual foods for additional taxation is a very bad idea.  What do you think?

5 Responses to “Taxing Soda and Pizza to Combat Obesity?”

  1. Rose Ribboni

    The way I see it is that ultimately the prices for pizza will become prohibitive and families will probably eat fast food instead. Although there are those who equate pizza with fast food, I think it has been demonstrated repeatedly that pizza is a healthy choice, not fried, and contains all of the food groups. To tax pizza, rather than fries and beef cooked on a high flame which has been proven to be carcinogenic (cancer producing), may end up being dangerous and counter productive. Who thinks these things up, anyway? Singling out pizza, is absolutely ludicrous!

  2. I don’t drink soda, so I would not be affected by a soda tax, but I kind of see it as a intrusion on our rights. If they are going to do it, I would agree that it should be across the board on all foods that use a certain percentage of high fructose corn syrup, but like you say, the corn subsidies will prohibit that.

    I tend to believe that a better approach would be to end the corn subsidies all together and instead use them to subsidize healthy foods. This has the same net effect, corn syrup costs more and healthy food costs less, but achieves the goal without taxing us to health, as it were.

    Likewise, I find the idea of a pizza tax crazy, especially when you consider how pretty much all of the menu items at fast food restaurants, such as Mcdonalds, are much worse.

  3. Paul Schubert

    Adding an eighteen percent sales tax to soda and pizza is a two edged sword. On the one hand, I am against dictating to people what they can and can’t do regarding food and beverage intake. On the other hand, it is apparent; in today’s society that too many people just do not know how to eat healthy. Something needs to be done, but do it across the board. When sales go down the owners will magically put out a better and healthier product. Of course, this means the tax man will have to provide a tax reduction incentive for them to make the change. If it is not done across the board, people will find an alternative for their junk food craving.

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  5. Kris Hixson

    I do not believe that pizza and soda should be taxed. I firmly believe that more time and money should be spent on educating those about the importance of nutrition. The benefits of education will be far greater than any tax. If we big to tax pizza and soda, it will open the flood gates to taxing many other non-healthy foods. People will just find another, less-taxed, alternative. More tax does not fix the problem, the only fix is education and people becoming their own advocates for their health care. Developing good habits will last a lifetime, higher taxes are just a slap on the wrist and there is no true lesson learned.

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