Will the tax on sugary drinks include diet sodas?

The answer to this question will be illuminating. The claim is the tax is for our health, to help society pay for all the Type II Diabetes, etc., that consuming sugary drinks is claimed to cause. But diet sodas don’t have the “unhealthy” sugar. Or are they going to try to claim that drinking artificial sweetener causes cancer, something for which the evidence is dubious to nonexistent? Or is the real answer, they just want our money, and will lump diet soda in with regular soda, to grab the most money they can with such legislation? I am betting on #3.

I just did a Google search on “sugary drink tax” and came up with a bunch of news stories that look like they date from May. Is that what you’re talking about, or has there been some new development? (Not that I have a problem with your referencing something from May; I’m just trying to figure out what specifically you’re talking about.)

To my knowledge, the sugar drink tax is just one proposed way to help pay for healthcare. Since there’s not even a healthcare bill yet, and no word on whether there would actually be a sugar drink tax, there’s no written sugar drink tax legislation as of yet, so it’s impossible to say what is/isn’t included.

If there was, I’d probably want diet sodas included too. The word “diet” does not make them healthy. However, that would be terribly difficult to legislate. In theory, the tax should only be on sweet drinks, but defining “sweet” is pretty nebulous. There are some bottled teas that are unsweetened, and then there’s some all natural drinks (like sparkling water with added lemon) that are “sweet” but not very sweet. And then there’s fruit drinks, like a 100% apple juice that can be just as sweet as a sugar soda.

To legislate that, you’d have to have an actual measurement of sweetness. It would be easy to do that if everything sweet were made with sugar, because then you could just consider anything with X% sugar (by volume) to be “sweet”.

But with artificial sweeteners, or natural sweeteners like stevia extract, the potency of sweetness varies. Perhaps a drink with 10% sucralose is equally sweet as a drink with 15% sugar. The bill would have to have specific percentages for every known sweetener (and it seems like there’s a new one every 3 years), and would just be a big ol’ headache.

I think a fast food tax would be easier to legislate.

Heck, there is sugar in MILK. And orange juice. What about “snacks”? Some chips are loaded with salt and fat, and are bad for you, and others are not. This is going to be a real can of worms, but we have to feed the cavernous maw of government spending, so its gonna happen.

There was a proposal to tax drinks that were above a certain number of calories per volume, hence excluding diet sodas (but including some “fruit juices” which have large amounts of sugar added). I haven’t heard much about it lately though, I suspect the regressive nature of such a tax and the fairly limited amount of money it could raise make it unlikely to pass on a federal level.

You’re going to have to provide some evidence of what in the world you’re talking about before you get any useful answers.

The front page story in my local paper today was about the changes to the Illinois state sales tax in what gets taxed at the regular rate and what gets taxed at the food rate. Could this possibly be what the OP is talking about?

If so: Beginning Tuesday, snacks, candy, and personal hygiene products will be taxed at the “general merchandise” rate of 6.25% in Illinois, not the 1% food rate. “Snacks” include soft drinks, which include “any nonalcoholic beverages containing natural or artificial sweeteners” (including, presumably, diet as well as regular soda) but not including beverages containing milk, unsweetened tea, unsweetened water, and beverages containing more than 50% vegetable or fruit juice.

No mention that things like soda are being penalized “for our health,” just that they’re being treated the same as other non-food (health-neutral) items.

The beverage tax discussed in May by the Senate Finance committee would apply to drinks sweetened with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup or other “similar sweeteners”.

So it definitely doesn’t open any cans of worms. I would say the baseless conjecture Stan Shmenge threw out in his own question is pretty much completely wrong.

(bolding mine)

Seriously? Personal hygiene products? So we’d be taxed more for wiping our asses and for wearing tampons? :confused: How in the world are they managing to lump that in with chips and candy?

They’re lumping them in with “general merchandise”. Do you think personal hygiene products are more “food” than “general merchandise”?

Not if you wipe your ass with lettuce leaves.

I suspect they’re just closing a loophole that had left personal hygiene stuff in the cheaper “food” category.

Apparently Illinois didn’t pay any attention in 1991 when California enacted a “snack tax” that caused huge sales losses in the food industry, major confusion for everyone, and a large amount of resentment centered around the sentiment of “Don’t Tax Food!” Administratively, it was a mess with random oddities like Milky Way candy bars being taxed, but Milky Way ice cream bars were not taxed. Saltine crackers were taxed, but honey graham crackers were not. Store owners were forced to frequently check state-issued lists to tell what was taxed or not.

Ultimately, Proposition 163 was passed in 1992 repealing the snack tax and prohibiting any future such taxes. I predict a similar fate for the Illinois tax.

Wait, what, we’re feeding the government worms?! No wonder no one likes them.

Isn’t that how it works in a lot of places anyway? I haven’t lived there since the mid-90s, but I don’t remember personal hygine products being exempt from MA sales tax like clothes and food were. Hmm. According to this document tampons and diapers are exempt from sales tax but toilet paper and deodorant aren’t.

Are you sure about the “added” part? Orange, apple, and grape juices, the ones most popular for drinking, contain quite a bit of sugar naturally - all of them around the same, per volume, as a sugar-sweetened cola.

No, no. We’re feeding the government sugary soft drinks and snacks. That’s why it’s so bloated…

Given that the tax mentioned by the OP does not evidently exist yet, it is impossible to answer this question factually. Since the OP also seems more interested in ranting than in factual information, this is also not appropriate for GQ. I would invite the OP to reopen the subject in either GD or the Pit, depending on whether he is wishes to argue a position or bash a policy.

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