by Max Brantley
An article in the New York Times covers a new review of research in the New England Journal of Medicine that suggests a tax on soft drinks could be useful in the fight against obesity.
The scientific paper found that a beverage tax might not only raise revenue but have significant health effects, lowering consumption of soda and other sweet drinks enough to lead to a small weight loss and reduced health risks among many Americans.
The study cited research on price elasticity for soft drinks that has shown that for every 10 percent rise in price, consumption declines 8 to 10 percent.
Dr. Joe Thompson, Arkansas surgeon general, is in the group of health experts pushing the idea. They say a one cent-an-ounce tax on drinks with sugar could raise almost $15 billion for health initiatives. (That's a whopping big tax, considering soft drinks sometimes are sold for 30 cents a can or so on specials.)
PS -- A veteran of the 1992 soda pop tax fight in Arkansas remembers that the political masterstroke was applying the tax to the syrup that goes into the soda pop, not a per-can tax. It made it harder to translate the talking points in the battle.