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Soda Tax Could Turn Health Profit

A penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened drinks would cut consumption, obesity and health care costs. Katherine Harmon reports

Sugary drinks are one of the leading culprits behind America's weight problem. Whether it's sugar-sweetened soda, sports drinks, teas or juices, we're each gulping down an average of 70,000 liquid calories each year.  

Now an analysis finds that a tax of one penny per ounce of sugar-sweetened beverage would pay off big time: it would generate $13 billion in revenue each year—and save the country at least $17 billion dollars in health care costs over 10 years. The report is in the policy journal Health Affairs. [Y. Claire Wang et al., "A Penny-per-Ounce Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Would Cut Health and Cost Burdens of Diabetes"]

An extra 68 cents per two-liter bottle would drive consumption down 15 percent. And even if Americans replaced some of those calories with other treats, the tax would still prevent an estimated 867,000 adults from becoming obese within the decade.  

What to drink that won't add any pounds? Diet drinks might not offer much either, as artificial sweeteners have been linked to weight gain, too. So, perhaps a simple refreshing glass of filtered tap water is the key to making us penny-wise and pounds lighter.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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