June 19, 2009

Online calculator shows soda tax forecasts

The Liquid Candy Tax Calculator shows policymakers and the public how much the government could raise by taxing sugary drinks, a U.S. advocacy groups said.

Officials at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington said that federal and state governments should levy excise taxes on soda and other sugary drinks both to raise revenues to pay for health coverage and prevention programs and also to decrease consumption of products that promote obesity.

For example, the online tool calculates that a federal excise tax of one penny per 12-ounce soda could generate more than $1.5 billion dollars per year, said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the CSPI.

A steeper tax of one penny per ounce could raise roughly $16 billion a year -- an amount that would make a serious down payment on a comprehensive healthcare reform bill, Jacobson said.

Soda and non-carbonated soft drinks are basically liquid candy, providing nothing of positive benefit to the diet, just empty calories, Jacobson said in a statement.

It's cheaper than dirt, we consume too much of it, and it causes expensive health problems. The question is why has it gone untaxed for so long at the federal level?

CSPI's calculator also displays the rates of U.S. overweight and obesity in each state, as well as the costs of medical care due to adult obesity. Of the $95 billion cost to treat obesity-related disease nationwide, about half is borne by Medicare and Medicaid, Jacobson said.