Hike Soda Tax To Cut Child Obesity? Fat Chance

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  • 01/26/2012
Yet another example of shoddy 'research' confirming biases that are not established by evidence.

Tax on sugary beverages projected to have broad health benefits
A penny-per-ounce excise tax on beverage makers would mean reduced sales and rates of type 2 diabetes and associated health problems, a study says.

By Carolyne Krupa, amednews staff. Posted Jan. 24, 2012.

From the article reporting on the 'study'

"Forty states have sales taxes on soda, but they are too low to impact sales, said Dr. Y. Claire Wang, lead study author and assistant professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York. California's tax is the highest at 7.3%. In many states, profits from the taxes are used to benefit health-related programs and low-income families."

Dr. Wang fails to tell us that while California has the tax rate on food as well as soda the prevalence of  kids classified as either obese or overweight (10-17) increased in the state while it decline in other states where the tax on food and soda is non-existent or lower.  

Social engineers like Wang want us to believe -- absent clear evidence -- that raising taxes on soda will reduce obesity and healthcare costs.  A glance at tax rates and obesity prevalence shows that it not so. 


And of course every assumes an increase in obesity.  But is that absolutely true?  It turns out the prevalence of obese adults has remained the same from 2003-2008 with differences in the change of prevalence within enthnic and racial groups (as well as within states among similar ethnicities) according to a most recent CDC study that received almost NO media attention.

JAMA. 2012 Jan 20. [Epub ahead of print]

Prevalence of Obesity and Trends in the Distribution of Body Mass Index Among US Adults, 1999-2010.

Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Ogden CL.

Another question is:  how many kids are like I was.. chunky or overweight until I began in 6th grade to focus on my goal of playing for the New York Yankees. Changes in human development due to better access to food, medicine, safer environments do have changes in utero that can affect the prevalence of metabolic disorders.  Indeed, there is a pretty solid case behind the claim that BMI as a measure fails to take into account physiological improvements in food and other technological advances.   Americans are heavier and taller now than they were a century ago.   We live longer too.  The crusade against soft drinks and obesity fail to adjust for what economist Robert Fogel demonstrates is "a positive effect of stature and BMI on" life expectancy and output. 

Now I am not saying that obesity isn't a problem or not linked to increased morbidity.  What I am suggesting is that the way to keep weight under control is the combination of education, awareness, exercise and diet.  Taxes that target any one food or drink or any amount thereof are not only an invasion of freedom but they will be useless. 



Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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