A tax on every teaspoon of sweetener in a soft drink — what’s next, a tax on bread pudding and pecan pie?
State Rep. Ebony Woodruff, D-Terrytown, proposed House Bill 811 that would add a 1-cent tax on every teaspoon of sweetener in any beverage sold in a store or restaurant. This includes sugar, corn syrup and any "caloric sweetener” according to a story in The Times Picayune/NOLA.
"In Louisiana, you can walk outside and see we’re suffering from obesity,”
Woodruff says. "I’m hoping to disincentivize consumers from purchasing those beverages.”
No doubt sugary soft drinks or sweet teas or coffees are a factor for many who are obese, but why pick only on beverages when clearly there are plenty of other contributors to obesity in our state like fried foods, boudin, cracklin, bread pudding, all sorts of dishes with gravy served over big mounds of rice and plenty more things we like to eat or drink that challenge our waistlines.
This proposal if passed would add about 10-cents in special tax to a typical 12-ounce soft drink, maybe 5 cents to a serving of tea at a fast food outlet.
How to charge and collect the appropriate tax tied to the amount of sweetener that varies from product to product would likely be a bookkeeping nightmare for the state and the companies that would need to collect it.
And how would you handle taxing a drink that’s served without a sweetener added, but then there are packs of sweeteners or pump dispensers right there, so you can add as much as you want after it’s served?
"There would have to be the caloric sweetener police, to calculate how you do it,” says the American Sugar Cane League’s general manager Jim Simon.
Other states have considered these special taxes on sweeteners in beverages but according to the Picayune/NOLA report, only one soft-drink tax has been implemented, a local penny-per-ounce tax in Berkeley, Calif.
Besides questions if this tax is practical to even collect, or if it’s something worth imposing on Louisiana consumers, this bill would seek to reduce the amount of sweeteners in beverages sold in this state — the same state that gets a huge economic boost from growing, harvesting and processing sugar.
The sugar industry is huge for Louisiana yet this bill pushes to reduce the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages?
When I put too much on my plate, or eye a second piece of some sinful dessert, my wife reminds me of a Spanish saying that translates to, "Fat people are fat for a reason.”
There are plenty of efforts the state can undertake to fight obesity, and promote healthier lifestyles.
Special taxes on beverages and setting up a calorie police are not the best ways to do it.