AFP Opposes Proposed Soda Tax Legislation

August 07, 2014

Dear Representatives:

On behalf of more than two million Americans for Prosperity activists in all 50 states, I write to express our strong opposition to Representative DeLauro’s Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax (SWEET) legislation. This bill would establish a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages at a rate of 1 percent per every 4.2 grams of caloric sweetener, which is problematic for a number of reasons.

Using the tax code to micromanage waistlines is an alarming level of overreach of government power in private lives of American citizens. This is a tax hike on American citizens under the guise of reducing obesity and it would increase the cost for every soda consumer, whether or not they are obese. This tax will also have a regressive effect, as low-income Americans spend a greater percentage of their earnings on soda.

Efforts at the state level to levy taxes on soda have failed to achieve their goals. This is because, according to a study by the University of Washington, soda and similar sugar taxes have a statistically insignificant effect on BMI: an increase of 1% in taxes on soda could produce a decrease of just 0.003 in BMI for an obese consumer. And even that is no guarantee, since, according to studies by the Tax Foundation, consumers who eliminate soda from their diets simply substitute those calories with other unhealthy foods.

Courts and voters have recognized that these taxes are overreaching and unsuccessful. Consider the most well-known soda tax: New York City’s “Big Gulp ban.” New York’s highest court struck down the ban last month in a 4-2 decision. The decision put an end to former Mayor Bloomberg’s misguided mission to dictate the diets of New Yorkers. Voters in states including Maine, Washington, and California have resoundingly defeated proposed soda taxes.

This proposed tax on sugary drinks would fall heavily on low income consumers and would be an unnecessary expansion of government authority over private citizens, while having little to no effect on national obesity rates. Americans for Prosperity urges you and your colleagues to reject the SWEET Act and similar efforts to micromanage behavior using the tax code.

Mac Zimmerman
Director of Policy
Americans for Prosperity

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