The State of Vermont vs. Common Sense
The Vermont legislature has proposed a tax on sugary drinks. According to the Valley News, this tax would add “a penny per ounce to the cost of sodas and many types of juice” (Fleisher, Jan. 19, 2013). So, a six-pack of Coke would cost an extra 72 cents. This tax was proposed in order to curb childhood obesity. Moreover, the revenue raised would go toward subsidizing the health care costs of low-income Vermonters. Now that all the facts are on the table, I’ll go ahead and point out a few things.
First, a 72-cent tax is not going to stop me from buying soda. The tax isn’t high enough to completely dissuade me from drinking sugary beverages. I’ll just be annoyed and will have to spend less on other things. The tax will change my spending habits—but not on soda.
Secondly, low-income Vermonters are in a pickle here. They have two choices. They could buy the sugary soft drinks with the added taxes, or they could avoid the sodas and buy healthier drinks. Here is the problem: healthier drinks—and healthy food for that matter—are more expensive than their unhealthy cousins. Maybe everyone could switch to tap water, but that is unlikely. Either way, beverages would cost more.
As a side note, the proposed legislation includes a tax on “many types of juices.” Really, a tax on apple juice? Great job Vermont. We all know that the cause of childhood obesity, and obesity in general, is apple juice.
Additionally, the way Vermont has chosen to use the revenue from this tax is inappropriate. Vermont plans to subsidize health care for low-income citizens. But, if the tax actually works, and low-income Vermonters no longer buy sugary drinks, the tax revenue and the subsidy disappear. If the tax doesn’t reduce how much soda people consume, the tax won’t have its intended purpose of reducing the prevalence of obesity.
Overall, this legislation is misguided. The tax included in this legislation won’t change consumer habits enough to curb soda consumption. The cost of beverages will also increase. With the revenue from this tax Vermont plans to subsidize health care for low-income residents. However, the health care subsidy will not fix the problem that people drink too many sugary sodas and may become obese. This condition results in health problems later in life, such as diabetes and heart disease. So, Vermont proposes to make the health care of the people who bought the sugary drinks, which gave them these health issues in the first place, less expensive—instead of dissuading people from becoming obese in the first place.