Higher Tax Needed on Soda to Curb Childhood Obesity
The non-profit research organization RAND has determined it would take a higher tax on soda to curb childhood obesity. The small tax on soda of 3.5 to 7 percent might help control childhood obesity in some subgroups, but to make an impact, higher tax on soda is needed.
Roland Sturm, the study's lead author and a senior economist at RAND says imposing a small tax on sodas does not seem to have any noticeable effect on consumption of soft drinks, nor does it help curb obesity. Sturm says, "If the goal is to noticeably reduce soda consumption among children, then it would have to be a very substantial tax.”
The researchers looked at 7,300 children enrolled in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, an ongoing study of children that has been underway for years, examining variances in sales tax and rates of soda consumption and obesity.
The research group found wide variances among children’s patterns of consuming soft drinks. The average number of sodas consumed was six per week. The study showed that neither tax on sodas, or the amount consumed had any link to weight gain in children except among those at higher risk for obesity. Higher tax on the drinks in some states seemed to curb weight gain for those who were heavier, low income families, those who watched TV frequently, and among African American children.
The study suggests that a higher tax is needed on soda to curb childhood obesity, and that the current low tax on soft drinks has little effect for reducing soft drink consumption among children at high risk. An eighteen percent tax on soda would do more to curb childhood obesity.
Imposing higher taxes on soda could reduce obesity by 20 percent among third to fifth grade children. The researchers also suggest rather than raising soft drink taxes, an excise tax on sugar could increase the price of soft drinks and be more effective, versus a sales tax collected at checkout. How soda tax is implemented “are key to whether they create measurable impact," Sturm said.