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Soda Tax

Despite how tempting the pssst sounds when opening a can of ice cold Coke, we know that soda and other sugary drinks are not good choices for our health. They make us sick. And fat.

Not only is a 7.5 ounce can of Coke—a mini version of their standard 12 ounce size—void of nutritional value, it contains a whopping 25 grams of sugar (nearly all of the recommended daily 26 grams for women and 39 for men according to the American Heart Association). And if you think drinking just one mini can a day doesn’t make you a soda junkie, even that can add up to more than 32,000 calories a year or about nine extra pounds!

This is why one group of scientists now believe that charging consumers more for their soda fix will help us beat our addictions while also beating heart disease, diabetes and obesity—and saving lives.

RESEARCH DEBATE: Will a Soda Tax Make Us Skinny?

Researchers at Columbia University and University of California, San Francisco recently analyzed the hypothetical effect of a nationwide tax on soda, and guess what they found? As little as a penny per ounce could reduce consumption by 10-15 percent in adults ages 25-64 over a 10-year span. That’s enough to make a noticeable difference in American’s health, they say.

Over the next decade, this tax could prevent 2.4 million cases of diabetes, 95,000 coronary heart events, 8,000 strokes and 26,000 premature deaths. And, as if that’s not enough to make us sit up and take notice (while putting down that Diet Coke), a soda tax could also save our country more than $17 billion in medical costs during those 10 years.

While all of that sounds more than appealing, we have to wonder: Would an additional eight to 24 cents per can really discourage consumers from hitting the vending machine?

The theory is that increasing the price of sugary drinks by one cent per ounce will decrease consumption between 10 to 15 percent over the course of a decade.

But what about the psychological aspect of quitting soda? If someone is addicted to the sugar and caffeine—as many Americans are—would this really work?

QUIZ: How Much Sugar Do You Eat & Drink?

The research team believes that raising the price by a penny per ounce across the board, at all venues where soda can be purchased, will make a big enough impact.

The researchers evaluated the effect of an excise tax—a tax aimed at the sellers who stock the soda for you to buy. In turn, the sellers would raise the price tag on your soda.

In contrast to a sales tax that you pay at the cash register, you’d see the increase on the price tag when you pick out the product, a strategy they hope will be more discouraging for buyers.

If a penny per ounce could do this much good, imagine if it were a nickel or dime per ounce? It would have a much bigger impact, although less of a likelihood to gain acceptance by legislators or voters.

If you’re addicted to sugar and caffeine, would you be tempted to give it up for this type of price increase?

If so, get some tips from Dr. Oz on how to beat the addiction in 28 days.

DISCUSS: How You Feel About Diet Soda