Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

Des Moines Register. September 15, 2017

Iowa needs a soda tax: Empty calories can help replenish state budget

Iowa is now the 13th-fattest state in the country. More than 30 percent of our adults are considered obese. Meanwhile, our state government is facing a budget shortfall and will need more revenue going forward to sustain basic services.

One idea to address both these issues: a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and soda.

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This is not a radical proposal. Several municipalities across the country have imposed a levy on unhealthy drinks to try to curb the obesity epidemic and raise revenue. The taxes imposed in Cook County, Ill., and Philadelphia can include flavored waters, teas and other drinks. France, Finland and Hungary all tax unhealthful beverages.

And there is evidence such measures work.

A 2015 World Health Organization review of using price policies to promote healthier diets found taxation led to a reduction in consumption and in many cases a reduction in overall calorie intake.

Mexico’s 1-peso-per-liter tax on sodas, roughly 10 percent of the cost, led to a 6 percent decrease in overall sales and a drop of nearly 12 percent among lower-income residents. The consumption of water and non-taxed beverages increased by about 4 percent on average.

Why wouldn’t Iowa consider this idea?

This state clearly has little aversion to so-called “sin taxes.” Throughout Iowa history, our lawmakers have embraced imposing levies on items generally considered harmful.

Iowa became the first state in the country to pass a tax on cigarettes when lawmakers added 2 cents to the cost of a pack in 1921. Nearly a century later, that tax is $1.36 per pack, compared with 17 cents in neighboring Missouri.

Cigarette taxes are proven to reduce smoking, an addiction that drives up health care costs and kills people. Meanwhile, Iowa reaps financial benefits, collecting about $230 million in fiscal year 2016 from taxing tobacco products.

And this state has no qualms about padding the public coffers with taxes on alcoholic beverages. Our levy on wine is nearly six times higher than Kansas’ tax and generated $7.6 million in 2016. Beer sales brought twice as much money to state government.

A special tax on sugar-sweetened drinks and soda, which contribute to everything from obesity to cavities, is in keeping with Iowa’s other taxation to discourage unhealthy…

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