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If soda taxes are going to make a dent in childhood obesity, they've got to be pretty steep

April 1, 2010 |  5:00 am

For those bleeding hearts holding out hope that some legislature will take on the obesity crisis by raising soda taxes, researchers are offering this advice: Those taxes had better be pretty steep.

A group of researchers from Rand Corp. and the University of Illinois at Chicago gathered data on more than 7,000 elementary school children, including their body mass indexes, their soda-drinking habits and the amount of time they spent engaged in "vigorous activity" and watching TV. The researchers matched that up with the tax rates on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages in the states where they lived.

None of the states taxed soda at a rate above 7%; the mean was 4.2%. On average, the tax rate on soda was 3.5 percentage points higher than the rate for other foods. 

Most important, none of these taxes had any significant effect on the amount of soda consumed by the kids as a whole or on the amount of weight they gained. The researchers calculated that a 1 percentage point tax increase was associated with a BMI reduction of only 0.013 points, on average.

Based on those figures, they reported that taxes on soda would have to be at least 18 percentage points higher than for other foods to reduce kids' BMIs by 0.23 points -- enough to trim their weight gain by 20%. But they were quick to recognize that such a huge tax is politically implausible.

They did find that taxes in place today were enough to reduce weight gain in children who were already deemed overweight. They also found that existing taxes on soda were associated with reduced soda purchases at school among three groups of children: those from low-income families, those who were African American and those who watched a lot of TV.

The study will be published in the May issue of Health Affairs.

Even before it was officially released Wednesday night, pundits were getting out their soapboxes to remind us all that no single food or beverage can be blamed for the weight gain observed in this country. The researchers acknowledged this too. But they added that "the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages by itself is much higher than the energy imbalance that underlies the obesity epidemic among youth." They also mentioned that kids now drink 200 calories worth of sugary beverages each day.

-- Karen Kaplan

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Comments (12)

Interesting that lawmakers across America are also set to tax COKE ZERO - which has ZERO CALORIES. Can anyone offer a rational explanation for that other than the government is obviously broke? And is it legal to assess a sugar tax on sugar-free products?

When I was a kid we didn't have cable, video games or internet, so we had no choice but to go outside and play. We had recess everyday at school. We rode bikes or walked to and from school. We played all day skipping meals, but we had to be home for dinner. Sugar (kool-aid) and fat (cooking with lard) was a regular staple, but obesity among kids were not common.

As a parent I realize this and make sure that my kids get daily activities, no video games, no cable, more healthier foods, and more fun outdoor activities. My kids are fairly healthy, they are less picky with food after vigorous play, and they sleep better at night.

If government wants to do something, then require recess at schools, fund parks and children's recreational activities, and create programs that encourages walking to and from school safely. If government wants to tax anything then tax cable, movie/video game rentals and purchases.

While it would be nice if the tax helped to lower the consumption of soda; however, if it doesn't it still contributes to the state cost for health care.

More baloney from the left, always wanting to use new taxes to implement this week's trendy social policies.

Want to get these kids thinner?

Stage monthly races for the kids to get their welfare checks. The check they receive is proportional to their timing. Faster kids get bigger checks, slower ones get smaller.

That would create a group of super atheletes in LA in just a few short weeks.

Problem solved using "right" thinking.

Big Jim
So sad... do you know that many of the trailer parks in our state hoist big flags and pick up trucks and guess what, yup, they be republicans! it is simplistic thinking to think that the left has the welfare crowd, just because we CARE about the welfare crowd and the republicans think their good fortune is sheer ingenuity, what a joke! I'm wealthy, I don't have to care about those 'without', but I do. I know I am fortunate. My parents were educated, I get that. It is therefore my duty to help others. That is why I am a Democrat. Soda consumption should come down by any means. It is pure junk, slows the body down, makes one crave things that are not helpful. Tax it, stop producing it, make it harder to get at, whatever it takes, it is like cigarettes for the poor or the young. Get it out of our system entirely so people stop polluting their bodies and minds with it -- and then they can think about good politics and good living. Ahhhh... Big Jim, get a life!

Are you listening Democrats? Don't tax that which we find enjoyable!

The problem isn't the products. The problem is that the kids today don't exercise as much as we did back in the day. Adding extra taxes serves only one purpose which is to raise money for our inefficient gov't. Don't believe that the gov't can solve your problems. Do it for yourself.

If you want to lose weight, you need to activate the mitochondrial cells that are located on the back. A simple calculation shows that lifting weights will not have any effect on obesity. The mitochondrial cells produce heat and when activated increase one's metabolism enormously. The problem is that there are so many toxins around, that these cells have become inactive. Thus it is necessary to open the cell membranes which causes the toxins to flow out through the pores of the skin. The result is amazing. The first night after taking the time-indexed formula, I woke up the next morning covered in sweat. I found I did not have to breathe very much because all the pores were open and I was receiving oxygen through the skin. After taking a shower, I didn't need a towel because all the water had been absorbed through the skin. I felt a toasty warm feeling as though my metabolism was working properly. I took the formula for less than a week, but I continued to lose weight slowly over a period of two months. I went from 250 lbs to 180 lbs in that time and have remained at that new weight. The interesting thing about this formula is that you start feeling hungry and you actually have to eat more because of the accelerated metabolism. The formula is time indexed which means that you take it over a period of four hours. If you eat a normal protein-rich (chicken, beef) lunch at noon, then you start with 500 mg of L-Tyrosine 45 minutes before lunch. At the same time as the L-Tyrosine, you take 100 mg of Vitamin-B complex in liquid form. This vitamin increases signal flow through the nerves. Then take 1000 mcg of Vitamin-B12. Take an adrenal (cortex) complex which strengthens the adrenal glands (250 to 500 mg). Then 30 minutes after lunch, take 400 IU of natural Vitamin E (RRR-alpha-tocopherol which is more potent due the higher biological activity compared to the synthetic version. Because the body's energy molecule is ATP, which is a triple phosphate, a double ADP molecule can attach another phosphate if the body has enough iron and electrons. Iron is found in good quantities in raisins, so eat one small box serving of 42.5 grams. One hour later take 1000 mg of Calcium/Magnesium so that the heart will have a good pump and relaxation. Then 30 minutes later take predigested Amino Acids according to the product label. If this is not available, take liquid amino acids. In order to activate this sequence of nutrients, it has to be activated with a slightly acidic solution for good electron flow by taking 15 minutes later 500 mg of Vitamin-C. Finally, take some more magnesium (600 to 800 mg) after another 20 minutes. The effect on women is especially noticeable because the hormones in the brain become completely balanced. One woman told us that she now understood everything that we had ever told her, and then a few days later enrolled in a computer science course at the University. She said, "My mind seems so clear now." Obesity should not be a problem if we take this formula.

how about we tax useless blogs im sure theres lots of fatsos writing them and even more like me posting useless comments. it should be a fairly high tax because us fatties cant really do much else besides sit in front some form of light box.

In light of the study that came out just recently proving that corn syrup is to blame, you'd think we'd start targeting corn-syrup products or our outrageous corn subsidies in this country instead of targeting just soda. Even soda with cane sugar is much much much less likely to contribute significantly to obesity than soda with corn syrup.

michaelle, you played right into Big Jim's hands. I'm a liberal, but that was one funny and true post. Don't be so sanctimonious. But please be more interesting next time.

With all the talk these days of "tea party" protests, if this latest extortion goes into effect, anyone up for taking a field trip, dressed as Native Americans, to dump Coke and Seven-Up into Boston Harbor (still in the cans or bottles, of course; no sense polluting the water)?


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