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On National Public Radio’s The Salt, there is a story about how soda taxes - designed to raise revenue and help fight the obesity epidemic - may work, though “sometimes not as well as hoped.”

The story looks at a variety of studies into the efficacy of the taxes, such as in Berkeley, California, the first US city to impose them. A study there showed a 52 percent decrease in consumption - though that is based on consumers’ own recollections and statements, not any sort of objective analysis.

Analysis of an even more sweeping soda tax in Philadelphia has shown a 46 percent drop in consumption of soda, though there’s a catch - there has been an increase in soda sales outside the city limits, where there is no tax.

According to the story, “There are political obstacles as well. The soda industry has been fighting back, arguing that soda taxes are unfair to consumers and won't really make people healthier. In fact, it recently strong-armed California's legislature into reluctantly passing a moratorium on further soda taxes by cities in that state. San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., however, have soda taxes already in place, and Seattle implemented one at the beginning of 2018.

“Soda tax advocates, meanwhile, say that there's a simple way to keep people from avoiding the tax by going outside the city: Just pass a tax that covers an entire state — or maybe even a whole country.” Like in Mexico, where there has been one since 2014, and consumption of sugary sodas is down eight percent.
KC's View:
The Philadelphia situation makes an important point - people will find what they want to find, no matter what obstacles government policies may put in their way. And so the taxes are not having the impact that some would’ve hoped.

I’m conflicted about the whole idea. I don’t think that soda should be demonized to the degree that, say, tobacco is and should be. But if it can be demonstrated that sugary drinks have an impact on public health, which then has an impact on public policy because of rising health care and insurance costs, then I do think there needs to be an appropriate policy response. Now, I think it probably is more appropriate to, say, not serve it for lunch in schools that always has struck me as sort of silly.