If you read newspapers or food blogs, you've undoubtedly come across debates about a so-called soda tax (also known as the sugar tax, a form of sin tax). But it's not always clear what products would be taxed, or for how much, and when. Here's what you need to know:
1) This is not a new idea. In 1776, Adam Smith endorsed taxing non-essentials too: on sugar, rum and tobacco. And Kelly Brownell, the director of Yale's Center for Eating and Weight Disorders, advocated a Twinkie tax plan about a dozen years ago.
2) The concept behind the tax is: Tax those things that hurt society in general. Sugar may be a culprit in the war on obesity. This raises money for national health care and discourages the bad behavior.
3) In addition to sugary soft drinks (Coke and Pepsi), the list of taxable beverages would include Gatorade, Red Bull, and sugar-sweetened teas.
4) Consumers would have to spend a few cents more on each can or bottle of soda.
5) Diet soda and real juice would not be taxed: Your Coke Zero budget will not change.
6) Some critics believe this tax penalizes the poor. They refer to proponents of the tax as "food police." They also wonder: Will this really teach children to lead a healthier lifestyle?
7) Yet other critics wonder why we don't tax all sugar and corn syrup. Instead of just sugary-syrupy beverages.
8) Another alternative is to drop subsidies to corn and sugar growers. Or grant subsidies/contracts to companies and industries we do like.
What are your thoughts? Pro or con a soda tax?
by James Oliver Cury
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