Soft drinks are “liquid candy” that provide no known nutritional benefit to the people who consume them, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), an advocacy group. The epidemic of obesity that has swept the United States in the past 25 years, especially among children, is in part due to soft drinks. All restaurants serve a variety of sodas as a staple on the menu. Now the CSPI is calling for a national tax on all soft drinks, similar to the so-called “sin taxes” on alcohol and tobacco.
The CSPI has even set up a Liquid Candy Tax Calculator that allows you to see how much revenue even a 1 cent tax could raise for government health programs. According to the Tax Calculator, $95 billion is spent annually battling obesity in the U.S. While a soda tax may not solve the problem of obesity, it might at least make people think twice about buying soda on a regular basis and can raise millions, if not billions, of dollars for the cash-strapped federal government.
Some states, like New York, have already introduced legislation targeting soda with a tax. A national tax would prevent a patchwork of local taxes from cropping up across the country. The National Restaurant Association has yet to weigh in on the proposal, but (perhaps not surprisingly) the American Beverage Association has come out strongly against the idea, claiming such a tax would hurt American families.
The CSPI has proposed that the revenue be used to fund healthcare reform, a major item on President Obama’s agenda. Judging from the size of the deficit, any help on the revenue front is better than what we have now.