We’re sure Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has gotten more than his fair share of playground teasing for his last name, but with his new proposal to tax soda, he’s certainly living up to it. Yesterday, in front of an unhappy city council, he announced a misguided pitch to reintroduce a two-cents-per-ounce excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. But his memory must be short: Just one year ago, a nearly identical tax on soda fizzled, thanks to Philadelphians tired of politicians using “sin taxes” on snacks to plug budget shortfalls.
Philadelphia’s public schools are facing a $629 million education budget gap, but Mayor Nutter’s plan to solve the problem partially through a tax on sugary drinks is a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. Apparently the mayor and other tax advocates believe it will pull the double whammy of swelling city coffers while slimming citizens’ waistlines. But this wrongheaded tax has been tried before – with miserable results.
Many lawmakers and health zealots have placed blame for Americans’ obesity squarely on soda. Yet a wealth of academic research demonstrates that taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages have no measurable effect on Americans’ weight.
According to research from the National Institutes of Health, soft drink consumption accounts for less than six percent of an average child’s daily calorie intake. And the author of a recent study on soda-tax effectiveness, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, suggests that consumers would likely switch to untaxed beverages with the same quantity of calories (such as whole milk or fruit juice) if sugar-sweetened beverages were taxed.
As we’re telling journalists today: “Taxing citizens into thin submission is a recipe for failure. Mayor Nutter should be calling on city government to tighten its belt, not making citizens and retailers swallow this not-so-sweet tax.”