Soda tax on ice in the US, for now

Soda tax on ice in the US, for now

A key charity has dented the campaign for a tax on sugary soft drinks in the US by pulling its support for the policy.

Save the Children's US division is no longer supporting the campaign for a so-called soda tax, it confirmed yesterday (16 December). The news is a blow to campaigners, but will be welcomed by soft drinks producers in the country.

Several US states have proposed legislation to introduce a tax on full-sugar soft drinks in the last couple of years, backed by anti-obesity campaign groups. The policy has also been muted as a means to help fund President Obama's health reforms. So far, however, efforts to introduce a tax have come to nothing.

Save the Children's vice president of marketing, Susan Ridge, told just-drinks that the charity is now "not taking a position on the soda excise tax, meaning that we’re not supporting it or opposing it.

"The activity bubbled up before our senior management could take a look at it and we decided to withdraw support based on a long-standing practice of not getting involved in hot button issues - such as this tax policy - that distract us and our supporters from our fundamental mission of saving children," Ridge said.  

The charity has strongly denied that its change in policy on soda tax is linked to ongoing discussions with The Coca-Cola Co over a donation. The PepsiCo Foundation is already a donor to Save the Children's global operations.

"Working with our partners, Save the Children will continue to advocate for better school menu choices, increased physical education and behaviour changes to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and help families make healthier choices," said Ridge.

A fresh study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal, used household purchasing data to argue that a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would help consumers to lose weight. Middle class consumers would be hit the hardest.

"These taxes would also generate substantial revenue that could be used to fund obesity prevention programmes or for other causes," said the study's authors.

Critics of the soda tax have pointed out that the study shows that poor households would buy in bulk to evade paying more. Soft drinks companies have denounced soda taxes as purely a means for authorities to raise revenue.