Soda taxes don’t lead to lower obesity rates. That’s the finding of a study by UW Madison sociology professor Jason Fletcher. He said higher soda prices might lead to fewer purchases, but that’s not the end of the story.
“They they drink other high calorie beverages which could even include something like orange juice, which could even include something like orange juice, which has very similar calories to soda,” Fletcher said. “In doing that switch from soda to even orange juice, they have the same daily calorie intake, and therefore we didn’t find any effect on obesity.
Fletcher said the study focused mainly on small soda taxes that are being proposed across the country. He also looked at a couple of examples of high soda taxes from the 1990s in Arkansas and Ohio. “We found very little evidence to support that even these relatively big taxes seem to affect obesity,” he said. “Big soda taxes may reduce soda consumption, but people seem to drink other high calorie drinks when they change from soda. They don’t all go drink water.”
Some people might not know that Wisconsin has a form of a soda tax, Fletcher said, because most food in the state is not taxed. “Wisconsin moved soda back into the sales tax,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a hidden way to tax soda without it being really clear that you’re taxing soda. Wisconsin is one of the state’s that has about a five percent soda tax.”