As obesity has become a growing health concern in the United States, there has been an outcry for the government to adopt policies to regulate one of the epidemic’s greatest underlying causes: sugar consumption. According to the USDA, consumption of caloric sweeteners increased 43 pounds per person, or 39%, between the 1950s and 2000. The increase of consumption has been linked to increased prevalence of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Some jurisdictions have turned to alternative ways of thinking and governing to deal with the expanding epidemic, mainly focusing on taxing the identified cause: sugar.
Sugar taxes have recently been touted as the answer to curbing American obesity while also closing gaps in state-level budgets that have seen a decrease in revenue sources due to the economic crisis over the past four years. While for some, this solution may seem like a easy and profitable answer to two growing problems, but the political battle has been waging in many states. Since 2009 the top soda companies have spent $70 million in 30 states striking down legislation, and have been successful in every one of those states. Below is an television ad that has run in the Chicago area and in parts of Minnesota:
The enactment of a sugar-sweetened tax in Minnesota would be, by almost all accounts, a large revenue producer. At a tax rate of 1 cent per ounce on soft drinks is projected to bring in over $300 million in 2013, and this revenue is only on beverages. When the tax is measured against the four criteria (efficiency, equity, adequacy, and feasibility), a sugar-sweetened tax is not fully optimal in all accounts. The tax is inefficient due to the undefined nature of the problem it attempts to solve. It is somewhat inequitable because the tax is regressive in nature, though may show some promise if a broader sugar-sweetened tax can be levied over product specific taxes like those previously attempted. As mentioned above, the tax itself is a very adequate source of revenue for the state. The feasibility of the tax is hindered mostly by industry(s) involvement and lobbying, though there may also be some questions of over-regulation on the public.
Overall, we believe that Minnesota should consider a the levying of a broad sugar-sweetened food and beverage tax due to its overwhelming adequacy as a revenue source, not to mention the possible public health benefits that could be an externality of the tax. The main issue with such a tax would be the act of getting it passed, which would include not only bipartisan cooperation, but the defeat of industry lobbyist.