The effects of taxing sugar sweetened beverages

You all know I hate the soda ban. But I have always said that I’m open to options that are more holistic. There’s a new study in the American Journal of Public Health that’s on point:

Objectives. We assessed the impact of sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes on net employment.

Methods. We used a macroeconomic simulation model to assess the employment impact of a 20% SSB tax accounting for changes in SSB demand, substitution to non-SSBs, income effects, and government expenditures of tax revenues for Illinois and California in 2012.

Results. We found increased employment of 4406 jobs in Illinois and 6654 jobs in California, representing a respective 0.06% and 0.03% change in employment. Declines in employment within the beverage industry occurred but were offset by new employment in nonbeverage industry and government sectors.

Conclusions. SSB taxes do not have a negative impact on state-level employment, and industry claims of regional job losses are overstated and may mislead lawmakers and constituents.

A 20% tax on sugar sweetened beverages would be less than the 44% or so we tax tobacco. Evidently, one of the arguments made against such a tax is that it would cause economic harm, especially with job loss in the beverage industries. This study counters that assumption. According to this research, a sugar-sweetened beverage tax in Illinois and California would result in an increase in employment in those states.

But I’m more interested in the health effects of such a tax. Would it work? Look, I hate added sugar as much as the next guy, but I don’t understand our relentless focus just on beverages. And this is coming from a guy who drinks diet soda.


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