After two years of abortive attempts to place taxes on sugary drinks, Philadelphia Mayor and soon-to-be Center for Science in the Public Interest summit speaker Michael Nutter appears to have kicked the taxing habit – for now. After the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative released a poll showing that 70 percent of Philadelphians thought that the city’s tax burden was a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem, Nutter’s spokesman said, “The mayor has no intention of requesting a tax increase.”
We hope that the mayor’s newfound fiscal restraint is sincere. His go-to proposal, a 24-cent tax on every can of soda, has been rejected twice by the City Council, and the Pew poll showed that Philadelphians are not clamoring to see their drinks taxed.
They shouldn’t be eager to hand over their hard-earned money to the city every time they want a sip: The tax’s purported “upside”—supposedly making residents healthier—wouldn’t have worked out anyway. Studies consistently show that despite the hype, soda taxes don’t affect obesity rates. One study found that a high soda tax would reduce consumption by an insignificant 12 calories per day. Other studies have found similarly weak effects: People buy fewer taxed drinks and buy more untaxed beverages that have the same amount of calories instead. When it comes to weight loss, a calorie is a calorie, whatever food or drink it comes from.
It’s good to see that at least one soda tax devotee has apparently given up his quest for this ineffective dietary regulation. If only others would follow suit.