A Letter to the New York Times on Soda Taxes

October 22, 2015

Here's a letter to the New York Times:

Margot Sanger-Katz writes in "Yes, Soda Taxes Seem to Cut Soda Drinking" (Oct. 13) that Mexico's experiment with soda taxes is working out swimmingly, with increased government revenue and decreased soda consumption. Everyone wins!

The only remaining unanswered question she advances is "did rates of obesity or diabetes fall?" Hilariously, this is actually the only important question.

Some important reading on that point:

One 2010 study found that when soda is taxed, adolescents will switch from soda to other beverages, especially milk, which has more calories. Another 2012 study found that older consumers switch from soda to beer, with beer having more calories and a few other characteristics as well.

I can understand that some would like to use government to make other people's health decisions, but it's important to remember that the tax code is a very blunt tool, and reactions aren't always predictable. It might be a bit early to spike the football.

Scott W. Drenkard
Economist & Director of State Projects
Tax Foundation
Washington, D.C.

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