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Pay Taxes, Lose Weight?

May 28, 2010

food policy

As many of you know, New York is in some financial trouble. A “crisis” if you will. The empire state is projected to be in the hole 8.2 billion dollars in 2010. The urgency of the deficit led to the closing of 41 state parks and 14 historic sites. This is a brilliant idea and I’m sure park goers appreciate it. Park goers being defined as people impacted by the recession that are looking for fun, inexpensive and healthy entertainment for themselves and their family.

That cut wasn’t enough and New York feels that the new win-win situation is to tax unhealthy beverages, increasing revenue and decreasing health related issues. Mayor Bloomberg, an expert on the subject (just kidding) said that he expects the tax to reduce “sugary beverage consumption by 10% or more” (Source). The sugared beverage tax would encompass drinks that consist of less than 80% juice, and the proposed amount is $.01 per ounce of beverage.taxing sugar is stupid

Dr. David Just, behavioral economist has given lectures about the relationship between food consumption and the price of said food. In a lecture he gave at Cornell University he brought up several interesting points.

  • Households usually have one person who deals with all food transactions, the person that does the grocery shopping. The rest of the house is oblivious to price changes from minor to substantial simply because they don’t see it or have to deal with it.
  • Trends show people are more responsive to price changes in vegetables than they are to foods high in sugar, sodium or fat. If the price of vegetables goes up, less are sold but if the price of soda increases, the intake remains constant.

His bottom line was that changing prices have not and will not affect what people are eating or drinking unless those changes are drastic. A penny per ounce of sweetened beverage is not going to change the amount consumed.

Additionally, according to a New York City study “those living in households with income less than 200% of the federal poverty level were more likely to be frequent soda consumers than those in households earning 600% or more of the poverty level.” (source) Translation: those with less money buy more soda. Those with more money buy less soda. Therefore the sugar tax is another “tax on the poor.”

So, New York for the well being of New York residents. There’s blatant evidence against the idea of taxing for better food choices, so do what you need to decrease the deficit but don’t pretend it’s a “win-win” for all of us.

Weigh in! Do you think the sugar beverage tax is a good idea?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2010 8:00 am

    I live in new york as well, But I think this is ridiculous. If someone wants soda, why should you tax them?! You should not try and control peoples health through taxes people will consume what they want! I however rarely drink soda so it does not fully affect me, but it does my parents. They want to tax everything…next thing you know freh produce will be taxed! ahaha

  2. Jenny permalink
    May 28, 2010 8:01 am

    In theory, yes, but it is true – these types of taxes just hit the poor even harder. There is a reason poor people are more likely to be overweight – most cheap foods are unhealthy.

  3. May 28, 2010 7:55 pm

    Hmm…I don’t live in NY…but I am not sure it’s such a horrible tax. Poor people are more likely to buy the drinks and more likely to be overweight…if there were a high enough tax, perhaps they would be less inclined to buy the drinks. Then they could save a lot of money and perhaps be less overweight?

    The issue with applying taxes to junk food instead of cigarettes is that food is a human necessity whereas cigarettes clearly aren’t. Once you decide to tax “junk food” the line gets blurry. Is junk food just soda?…oreos?…pizza? (which I think can be part of a balanced meal) A junk food tax may also level the playing field because a lot of people buy junk food and fast food because it is so cheap and health becomes second (or third) priority.

  4. May 28, 2010 7:57 pm

    Sorry to recomment, but what I meant in the previous comment is that perhaps a higher tax on the drinks would be more noticeable if the tiny tax makes no difference.

  5. May 28, 2010 10:50 pm

    I think taxing sugar beverages is a great idea!
    I think we are talking about this in California too…

  6. May 28, 2010 11:33 pm

    As as fellow New Yorker, I don’t think the sugar tax is all that bad. And with all the crises that we’re dealing with right now, hopefully this could help things out a little bit.

  7. May 29, 2010 12:54 am

    I think the sugar beverage tax is a good idea because there is ALWAYS a healthier alternative to soda: water. I feel like a junk FOOD tax is more of a tax against the poor, since unhealthy foods are far cheaper than produce, but water can always be consumed at a fraction of the cost of even the cheapest sugary drinks!!

  8. June 1, 2010 6:13 pm

    Start taxing on my grandpa’s Ensure. No lie, check the ingredients A sugared beverage means taxed beverage! Then mix in complaints about no being able to pay off his cronies with my money by Governor Paterson, this isn’t defending a government health policy but a public fleecing initiative.

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