“Sin tax” on sugared soft drinks and candy bars


France and Hungary are doing it. And now our neighbors to the south could be following in their footsteps.

Mexico is considering proposals for a tax hike on sugary drinks of either 10% or 20%. The hike would hit soda, sugar-flavored water, and other popular sweet beverages in a country where the average Mexican consumes close to 800 sugared drinks a year — almost twice the rate at which we drink them here in the United States.

What’s behind the proposed hike? Our neighbors are having a terrible problem with obesity and shortened lifespans. They’re losing 70,000 people a year by some estimates. One out of every 6.5 people in Mexico has adult onset diabetes. So it is epidemic. But is it fair to label sugary drinks as culprit?

The idea with the extra tax is that the money will go to social safety net kind of things, not to pad some member of the ruling party’s pocket. Economist are expecting that you will get a 10% decline in consumption if you raise the tax by 10%. Certainly, precedent is on their side when you look at the history of cigarettes in our country.

But here’s my issue: What is positive benefit of cigarettes? There is none. Yet a sugary soft drink in moderation can be fine for occasional consumption. It is the overall diet that is the real issue.

Meanwhile, a recent Boston Globe poll found roughly 70% of people in Massachusetts favor a tax on candy bars and sugary sodas if the money would support local schools or programs to reduce obesity in children.

The idea of this punitive tax is obviously to curb consumption of what some argue are big culprits in our nation’s diabetes epidemic.

Yet if the question is asked in a different way, more along the lines of, “Would you be in favor of a tax on sugared soft drinks and candy to reduce the consumption of them?” then the respondents were split roughly 50/50. (It’s the idea of money going to schools or obesity programs that made these respondents want to open their wallets.)

Again, my thing is having a candy bar occasionally is not harmful to your health. Nor is having a sugary soft drink from time to time. So to treat them as a pariah in the same way you do cigarettes is not reasonable to me.

I’m curious, what do you think? Is it reasonable to put a punitive tax in place to curtail the consumption of candy bars and sugary soda? (Diet soda would presumably be exempt.) Or is that government reaching too far into our lives? Be sure to vote in my poll.


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