Fight Fat with a Soft-Drink Tax?

By EatingWell Editors

Could taxing sugary drinks help reverse the obesity epidemic?

Last December, New York Governor David Paterson suggested imposing an 18 percent tax on nondiet soft drinks. (It would be similar to the “sin tax” applied to cigarettes and alcohol.) A few months later, he admitted that this so-called “fat tax” wouldn’t pass the legislature. But could his pie-in-the-sky idea help reverse the obesity epidemic? Here’s a look at the numbers:

1: Number of food categories subject to the proposed New York fat tax: nondiet soft drinks. (Sugary drinks containing less than 70 percent fruit juice would also be subject to the tax.)

$1.49: Price of a 20-ounce Diet Coke.

$1.76: Price of a 20-ounce “regular” Coke plus the proposed fat tax.

$404 million: The revenue New York could earn from the proposed fat tax, based on current soft-drink habits.

5%: Predicted decrease in soft-drink consumption if beverage prices increased by 18%.

20: Number of states that apply sales tax on soft drinks higher than that on other foods.

0: Number of states that use revenue from the higher sales tax to subsidize the prices of healthful foods.

Sources:, prices as of March 2009; Journal of Public Health Policy; The American Journal of Public Health.

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