THE MIDDLE GROUND
Brownell, who initially proposed the soda tax, continues to support it. However, he says that the taxes are currently “too small to affect consumption” and suggests that future revenues be earmarked for obesity-related health programs.
On that point, most experts seem to agree.
Dr. Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic and co-founder of YouBeauty, thinks a soda tax could work, but only if it was much bigger. “At five cents a bottle the tax is a nuisance but will not stop people from drinking soda.” He points to the cigarette tax as a prime example: “It didn’t become hurtful until they were taxed four dollars a pack! With sugared soda, the tax needs to be a more than a quarter per bottle to make a difference.”
Patel also agrees that the bigger the tax, the more it prohibits consumption. And while Finkelstein doesn’t think a soda tax could be effective on its own, he does support it as part of a larger effort. “When it comes to obesity, there is no silver bullet,” he says. “Potentially, lots of bullets could be combined to make a difference.”
To really see success, Finkelstein recommends targeting kids and schools. “That is the best chance to see success,” he says. (For each can or glass of sugary drinks per day, a child’s obesity risk goes up by 60 percent.) Patel agrees that targeting kids has the potential to make a difference, but he reminds us, “The benefit wouldn’t be realized for a really long time. It’ll take decades to work its way through.” Do we have the patience to wait?
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