Op-ed: Is the Soda Tax Bubble Bursting?
October 16, 2017
John Buhl and I have an op-ed in U.S. News and World Report this morning about the Cook County Board of Commissioners’ decision to repeal their soda tax after just a few months of collection. It is very rare to see a tax repealed so quickly after being instituted; but in this case, it is because the tax is generally unpopular, regressive, and doesn’t have sizable public health impacts. From our piece:
As for public health outcomes, experts disagree about the potential benefits from these types of taxes. Some research shows that consumers will simply purchase products in other jurisdictions or stockpile soda during sales. And just because a person cuts back on soda and other sugary drinks doesn’t mean they’ll make healthy choices with the rest of their diet. Other research shows that applying punitive tax rates to soda would have a very small impact on obesity.
Now there is evidence that taxing unhealthy food and drink choices and offering subsidies for healthy options widens the health inequality gap between lower- and higher-income consumers. This should give pause to soda tax advocates, who often argue that the taxes are necessary to steer lower-income consumers away from unhealthy drinks.