Right: vending machines in a US school cafeteria. These machines are now being removed and replaced by machines dispensing healthier food and drink.
(Much of the following information is drawn from the Wikipedia entry titled 'Soda tax'. This full entry can be accessed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soda_tax)
A soft drink tax or soda tax is a tax or surcharge on soft drinks. It may focus on sugar-sweetened beverages (soft drink sweetened with sugar, corn syrup, or other caloric sweeteners and other carbonated and uncarbonated drinks, and sports and energy drinks). It may aim to discourage unhealthy diets and offset the economic costs of obesity.
Soda taxes in the United States
Obesity in the United States is a public concern with the percentage of overweight people being among the highest in the world. Soda consumption has been noted as a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic and medical costs related to obesity are about $147 billion a year. In 1994 the soda tax idea was introduced by Kelly D. Brownell, Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale. In 2009, 33 US states had a sales tax on soft drinks. France is to introduce a tax of soft drinks in 2012.
To counter the problem of children's easy access to soft drinks, in 2005 the American Beverage Association began working to remove soft drink machines from US primary schools (children aged six to fourteen), and to replace soft drinks with healthier beverages such as orange juice or milk. High schools would have a 50/50 balance of machines dispensing soft drinks and healthier alternatives. Although orange juice may have a few more calories than cola, it also has other nutrients and fibre.
In 2009 the American Heart Association reported that the soft drinks and sugar sweetened beverages are the largest contributor of added sugars in Americans' diets. Added sugars are sugars and syrups added to foods during processing or preparation and sugars and syrups added at the table. Excessive intake of added sugars, as opposed to naturally occurring sugars, is implicated in the rise in obesity, and the AHA adds that no more than half of a person's daily discretionary calorie allowance should come from added sugars.
In the case of New York's effort to introduce a tax, the positive health message was supported by groups like the New York Academy of Medicine and editorial writers. The Alliance for a Healthier New York was formed with financial and strategic support from the United Healthcare Workers East union and the Greater New York Hospital Association. Groups such as New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes, set up by beverage companies, grocers, teamsters who represent drivers and production workers and others, lobbied against the measure. The anti-tax forces argued that the tax was based on dubious science, because obesity was a matter of how many calories people consumed, not where those calories came from.
The idea that the soda tax would cut into the income of poor New Yorkers while doing nothing to improve their access to exercise or fresh, affordable, healthy food was echoed by some advocacy groups for the poor. For example, Triada Stampas, the director of government relations for the Food Bank of New York City, testified against the tax before a Senate committee.
Generalized sugar tax
Norway has an excise on refined sugar products, including soft drinks, set to 7.05 kroner per kilogram.