Study: Soda taxes have no effect on weight, waistlines

Study: Soda taxes have no effect on weight, waistlines

[Ed. – Top contender for today’s Du-uh Award.]

MADISON, Wis. — Plus-size taxes on soda do not trim waistlines, but they do fatten the pockets of taxing authorities.

“People drink less soda when prices increase (due to taxes),” said Jason Fletcher, health economist at the LaFollette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “But when people drink less soda, they tend to drink other high calorie beverages.”

Fletcher has co-authored a study with David E. Frisvold, a University of Iowa economic professor, and Nathan Tefft, professor at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, concluding the tyranny of consumer demand foils government health policy.

When the price of Coke rises, people opt for sweet tea, sports drinks or other high-calorie drinks. The effect of taxation is negligible.

“Certainly until recently (proposals to tax soda) was mostly about revenue. It’s only been in the last few years where policy proposals are couched in health benefits,” Fletcher said. …

But supporters of Big Gulp bans and soda taxes aren’t likely to let facts get in the way of progressive progress. San Francisco lawmakers have proposed a new tax on soda that’s expected to bring in $30 million a year to city coffers.

“We have a history of supporting these kinds of public health measures,” San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener told Time Magazine. “Policy trends often start in San Francisco and then spread elsewhere. We’re proud of that as a city.”

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