The Proof is in the Pudding

The Fletcher research team agrees with Chaloupka and colleagues on a number of issues regarding sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) policy. For one, taxation is a way to reduce SSB consumption providing youth are the primary target.

They disagree however with applying the six MPOWER strategies from tobacco control and excess drinking to SSBs, writing “it misses the mark.” For example, regarding “protecting nonusers,” SSB consumption, they point out, does not affect others in the same ways that secondhand smoke and drunk driving do. The offer to help people “quit” also does not apply as SSBs are not addictive.

They also disagree with the extent of the impact of taxes, saying that taxing SSBs would not work since it is a tax on just one form of sugar. People, they contend, would substitute other caloric beverages if soft drinks were taxed. No weight changes would result.

A tax on SSBs will not “certainly” reduce obesity in a meaningful way, as Chaloupka states. A wider net would need to be cast, according to Fletcher. Rather than simply a tax on soft drinks or SSBs, policy needs to be expanded in two dimensions—scope and motivation—and touting health benefits along many dimensions.