For a while now I’ve seen television ads warning us of the looming dangers of a tax on juice drinks and soda, and the dangerous crimp that such a tax will place on the lives and finances of good, wholesome American families.
Now, I’m a fairly avid consumer of political news, and I haven’t seen any stories about proposed legislation imposing a tax on juice drinks and soda. In fact the only discussion on these issues I’ve seen has been the ads themselves. (Were I a cynical sort, I would suspect that these ads have been placed by the soda and juice drink industry, rather than by good, wholesome American families who are genuinely concerned about their Diet Coke budgets.)
Now, recognizing that this is GQ, and not the place to debate the merits of taxing bubbly sugar water, is there an actual and viable proposal out there to tax juice drinks and soda, or are these ads just preventatively trying to prevent anyone from imposing such a tax.
That’s the whole idea - if diet soda cost half as much as regular, you’d be inclined to drink it instead, even if you didn’t like the flavor as much. (Though the proposed tax isn’t quite enough to make diet half the price, but the principle’s the same).
Washington state does have an extra excise tax on the production of the syrup used to make carbonated beverages, but it’s the same whether you’re looking at diet or regular.
My reasoning goes like this: governments, rightly or wrongly, need money or else the whole world economy may fail resulting in disasters. Therefore tax things in widespread, almost universal use, that are unnecessary such as soft drinks and alcohol.
Well, I think the reasoning is more something like this: “when viewed in a cumulative way, caloric beverages such as soft drinks and sweetened ‘fruit juice’ contribute to widespread health problems at a high cost. Taxing them will both reduce consumption and generate monies to counteract the ‘health care opportunity cost’ of each soda.”
But the poor (or anyone else) could just buy diet sodas, diet/unsweetened teas, unsweetened juice, or just drink water. Granted, those items are not perfect substitute goods, but they are better for you, and obesity related problems are the greatest health issues facing the poor.
That said, I wouldn’t personally like such a law, since I like pop, but find every no/low calorie sweetener that I have tried to taste horrible. Aspartame, sucralose, stevia, ect, all are so bad I usually throw up if I drink something with those in them.
A tax on sugared soda would also be an incentive for private industry to come up with better artificial sweeteners. However, I don’t think they need much more incentive - it’s already a pretty lucrative market.