Chaloupka and colleagues take exception with a few points in this issue’s commentary by the Fletcher research team. A small tax on soda will not be sufficient to impact obesity, they contend. Taxes are not particularly effective on the youngest children whose parents make purchasing choices. Yet, as children become teens and young adults, and are high consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), they are subject to more price sensitivity, making a compelling case for high taxes.
These authors advocate that the tax take the form of a large excise tax, contained in the shelf price of all SSBs and visible to the consumer at selection point. Sales taxes, which currently average 5.2 percent, and are levied at grocery checkouts in 34 states, are too small to have an effect on consumption.
Drawing on successes in tobacco control, increased taxes were used to reduce tobacco use and earmarked to improve tobacco-control programs. Similarly, taxes raised from SSBs could be dedicated to obesity prevention.
The authors conclude: “large taxes that are part of a comprehensive set of efforts, including other interventions, such as the restrictions on vending machines as proposed by Fletcher and colleagues, would, collectively, accelerate progress in obesity prevention efforts.”