Should Maine Impose a Soda Tax to Save Lives?
If you weren't already aware, you're paying extra tax on unhealthy foods when you shop in Maine. In Maine grocery stores, only grocery staples are exempt from sales tax. Since 2016, the following foods have been on the "snack tax" list, according to sovos.com:
- Confectionery spreads
- Select powdered and liquid drink mixes
- Pre-packaged salads
- Chips, crisps, popcorn, puffs, etc.
- Fruit bars, granola bars, trail mix, and dried fruit
- Nuts and seeds that have been processed or treated by salting, spicing, smoking, roasting, etc.
- Desserts and bakery items
- Meat sticks, meat jerky, and meat bars
- Soft drinks
Some cities in the U.S. are adding an additional tax on soda (specifically, the amount of sugar in soda) in an attempt to curb negative health impacts that sugary drinks have on poorer populations.
My own brother, a super-smart econ researcher and professor at Wharton (#humblebrag), just published a study that showed "drinking one sugar-filled soda ends up imposing about 10 cents of health costs on others because the resulting medical bills are paid through Medicare, Medicaid or private insurers."
A special tax on the grams of sugar in a drink inhibit poorer populations from spending so much money on soda AND would help out welfare programs that end up footing the bill for these sugar-related health issues. Basically, it's a win-win.
Just a few years ago, Maine failed to pass a sweetened beverage tax, but cities that have imposed the tax (Berkeley, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boulder, among others) show that it's great for our health, wallets, and social welfare programs. A soda tax would be most effective at the state or federal level so that people can't just drive to the next town over to get their groceries, but in the mean time it's up to cities to take the plunge and tax our soda.
What do we have to lose?