Sugar drink tax won't help

Should soft drink consumers be punished or educated?

The Baltimore Sun's recent editorial regarding taxing sugary drinks ("A healthy tax plan," Nov. 28) buys into the flawed argument that common grocery items like sweetened teas, sports drinks and sodas are driving obesity and that slapping consumers with a tax will reduce consumption and improve health.

Certainly, there is real concern about sugar consumption and obesity, but to single out one industry is unfair and simply wrong. The reality is that taxing common grocery items has never been shown to improve public health. West Virginia, Arkansas and Chicago have had soda taxes for decades and they all rank among the highest when it comes to obesity rates. Denmark and Finland abandoned their taxes on foods and beverages with sugar, salt and fat when they found they do not work to improve health.

Mexico's tax has not affected body mass index at all, and the calorie drop was so small (4.9 calories out of a 3,025-calorie average daily diet) it was not measurable on a bathroom scale.

Have higher taxes, or "sin" taxes as The Sun calls them, deterred people from making bets at Maryland casinos? Not if you believe the Sun's own pages, which show revenue growing at record levels.

Importantly, calories we get from sugar in beverages has been dropping steadily, down 39 percent since 2000, while at the same time obesity rates have been climbing, 30.5 percent in 2000 to 37.7 percent in 2013-14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's easy to see why. We get only 6 percent of our calories from beverages, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the same source cited by The Sun's editorial. The rest comes from food.

So why single out soda for a serious societal problem that needs addressing with real solutions? Because attacking an industry is easy and working together to foster meaningful change is difficult. Yes, San Francisco and others have imposed taxes, but there is no evidence they will help public health. And the same groups that are funding pro-tax laws elsewhere are doing so in Maryland.

What works? Helping consumers. Government and industry and public health working together to inform people of the calories in beverages and all foods for that matter and giving them options when it comes to beverages — low and no calorie options and smaller portions — to make the right choices for their family.

The people of Maryland don't need government bureaucrats telling us what we can and can't eat or drink, and we certainly don't need another tax.

Ellen Valentino, Annapolis

The writer is executive vice president of the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Beverage Association.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad