Monday, 26 October 2009

Time for a tax on fizzy drinks?

A US thinktank has reported that most American states could wipe out their budget deficit with a one cent tax on every can of Coke or Pepsi sold, according to The Observer.

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest says the proposals - which have united soda pop manufacturers and food lobbyists in anger but seem to have won president Barack Obama's backing - could raise billions while improving the nation's health by helping tackle obesity and diabetes.

I think it's a great idea - as long as it's part of a concerted effort to improve the long-term health of the most disadvantaged.

For an such effort to succeed, it must tackle social inequality too. As The Equality Trust has argued, more equal societies (that is, those with the smallest gap between the richest and the poorest) tend to have healthier, longer-living, happier citizens all all levels.

If it means more people are quenching their thirsts on juices, squash drinks and generally less sugary fare, great, but the real test of any tax is whether it leads to a more equal society or not.

And I can't help feeling this is another tax that could hit the poorest hardest, and so have exactly the opposite effect to that intended - unless the benefits are felt most by the least advantaged too.

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