What If Soda Were Taxed By the Calorie?

Alex Van Buren
·Food Features Editor

Gif: The Science Llama, Tumblr

If soda had a publicist, he (as opposed, say, to whoever has been repping kale) would probably have been fired by now.

The states of Massachusetts and Florida have attempted, so far unsuccessfully, to tax soda pop and prevent food stamp recipients from buying it. New York City for a time succeeded in making sales of large sugary drinks verboten. In the state of California, 12-ounce vessels of the stuff may soon be slapped with this sucker…


…thanks to the “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Safety Warning Act,” which has gotten through the state Senate. 

Many folks know soda has been linked to diabetes and obesity. And studies have shown that taxes would probably have the desired effect of citizens drinking less soda. But a new study, reports NPR, indicates that taxing by the calorie could potentially also produce the desired effect: A “.04 cent-per-calorie tax — equivalent to a 6-cent tax per 12-ounce can of Coke or Pepsi — would lead consumers to consume about 5,800 fewer calories from sugary drinks per year.”

Study author Chen Zhen, a research economist at the Research Triangle Institute, told NPR that "it seems quite intuitive" that taxing calories could induce consumers to purchase lower-calorie drinks.

The whole thing reminds us of calorie counts appearing on menus: There is less of that blissful unawareness when one orders the carnitas burrito with extra sour cream, please. Will the same be said of the extra six cents you fork over per soda? 

[via NPR]