When walking down the drink isle at the grocery store, it’s hard to miss that bottled water is typically more expensive than soda of the same size. How could water, which is one of the major components in soda, be more expensive than soda? The reality is that it is not. It’s a profitable business strategy, which results in more consumption of the tastier/sugary drinks. It is unfortunate that companies do not consider the externalities that result from these decisions. In this case, it’s done at the expense of people’s health. Some companies go as far as funding studies that are four to eight times more likely to show a finding favorable to the industry.
According to the American Heart Association, sugary drinks like soda are linked to an estimated 180,000 deaths each year. Currently there is little that is done to regulate sugar in food and drinks the US. Any efforts to curb soda intake are met with the same argument that soda/sugar isn’t the problem but rather consumers lack of activity and overconsumption. In 2012, New York City banned the sale of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 oz. This was met with a large pushback from the industry, which ultimately won an appeal to ban the large sugary drinks. I suggest that pushing for a sugar tax similar to that of Mexico will not only help reduce obesity, but also increase much-needed revenues for public health measure. According to the research, the 10% tax on sugar in Mexico has reduced sales by 12% over its first year, which has reduced consumption and helped steer the country in the right direction.
I am fully aware that a tax on sugar will be met with a large pushback from the industry here in the US. However, with current statistics showing that 2 out of 3 adults and 1 out of 3 children in the US are overweight/obese, change must happen in order to reduce the estimated $190 Billion a year cost for treating obesity related health conditions.