Is a new tax the answer to obesity?

Lately there has been a lot of buzz about the possibility of creating a new tax on beverages that are sweetened with sugar. Several politicians in states such as California and New York have been promoting the idea of a 1-cent tax per ounce of sugary drinks in an effort to fight childhood obesity.

The statistics about obesity are compelling: almost 1/3 of all children in the United States are overweight or obese. Just as tobacco products have been taxed to provide money for cancer research and anti-tobacco campaigns, a tax on sweetened beverages would go directly to a fund to promote children’s health and fight obesity. While a penny for every ounce doesn’t sound like much, it is estimated that such a tax would raise about $1.7 billion per year.

Colorado already has a similar tax, which was implemented in March 2010 and requires a 2.9% sales tax on soda and candy. There are those who are opposed to the tax, and they are now attempting to reverse the tax on soda (but are leaving the candy tax alone).

Some health advocates have argued for a tax on all unhealthy foods, such as chips and ice cream. The hope would be to decrease consumption and encourage consumers to buy healthy options. The money from the tax would be used to combat the still-rising levels of obesity and cover the much-increased costs of healthcare resulting from medical issues attributed to obesity.

Still, others say that a “fat tax” is unnecessary, because it is up to the consumer to make choices about what to eat.

What do you think – would a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages or unhealthy food be an effective option for fighting obesity in the United States?

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