Sugar drink tax won’t help

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE - Ellen Valentino, An­napo­lis The writer is executive vice pres­i­dent of the Mary­land-Delaware-D.C. Bev­er­age As­so­ci­a­tion.

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.

Calo­ries we get from sugar in bev­er­ages have 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. 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.

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