As legislators prepare to close Washington’s $2.6 billion budget gap, partially by imposing a tax on carbonated beverages, a new scientific study confirms the obvious… that taxing soft drinks can make young people healthier.
The study, which collected food intake data from 12,123 young adults for 20 years, found that with every 10 percent increase in the price of a two-liter bottle, people consumed 7 percent fewer calories from soda. They also took in fewer calories over all.
When people faced an even larger increase — $1 for a two-liter bottle of soda, comparable to a proposed tax in Philadelphia — they consumed 124 fewer calories a day, the study found. The lower soda intake was associated with a drop in weight of more than two pounds — and a lower risk for pre-diabetes. The study appears in the March 8 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.
Now some might argue against any government effort to influence behavior by distorting the price of one product over another, yet the low price consumers have long enjoyed on sugary beverages is itself a direct result of massive federal corn subsidies and the vast supply of cheap, high fructose corn syrup these policies have created. Washington’s proposed nickel per 12 ounce tax, representing about a 20 to 30 percent increase at the checkout counter, can thus rightly be seen as merely a state effort to partially counter the market distortions created by subsidies at the national level. And considering the measurable public health benefits the study suggests we should expect, this policy seems like a win-win to me.