In a Blog Post (To Tax or Not to Tax—That’s a Big Question) dated June 1, 2009, we started with the following statement and questions:
Liquids make up about 22 percent of our daily calories. A study published in “Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association,” found those who drank just one soft drink a day—diet or regular—showed increased risk factors for heart disease. Here’s more: Women who drink two or more cans of diet or regular soda a day are nearly twice as likely to show signs of early kidney disease. And, any soda may increase your risk of metabolic syndrome. People who consumed just one diet soda daily had a 34 percent higher risk.
A 12-ounce can of sweetened soda contains 150 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar. Is this tax-worthy? It’s a question we may be looking at. Here’s a question to go with it—Do we impose a “sin” tax on regular soda but not diet soda? And, if we’re in essence taxing sugar—what about candy, gum, ice cream, candy bars, pies, cake? (You get the picture.)
Now, here’s what’s new and eye-popping. Let’s look only at sugar-sweetened beverages—the numbers only grow from there. The Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity has gone further than asking thoughtful questions. The Center has developed a “Revenue Calculator” for soft drink tax revenue. The figures are truly amazing. Just a 1 cent tax per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages (regular soft drinks, sports drinks, flavored water, fruit beverages, energy drinks, ready-to-drink coffee and ready-to-drink nondiet tea) in 2010 could result in tax revenues of $14,887,530,097 on the 11,630,882,889 gallons of the sweet stuff we drink. In one year.
Here in Texas alone, those figures translate to $1,187,823,885 on the 927,987,410 sugar- sweetened gallons of beverage we Texans consume. It’s pretty obvious that taxes on sugar-laden beverages can result in a great deal of revenue for cities, states and the nation.
Suddenly those Big Gulps really do have value. One more question—what do we do with it?