Idea alert

Mike Moffatt considers a pop tax.

Placing a general tax on junk food proves problematic, because one kid’s treat may be another child’s dinner (ask two people to define junk food, and you will likely get two different answers). But before you cry “nanny state,” consider this: soft drinks provide little to no nutrition, so it is easier to implement a specific tax on them than on all junk food. A tax on pop would more closely resemble the sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco. For instance, the federal government taxes beer at 31 cents a litre, and it could place a similar per-litre surcharge on soft drinks. A 2010 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that a 10 percent across-the-board increase in the price of sweetened soft drinks would lower consumption by 4 to 11 percent; therefore, even a modest tax could have a big impact.

The goal, however, is not to control pop sales but to reduce obesity. All else being equal, a 10 percent reduction in pop consumption would cut roughly 6,500 calories per year from the average American male’s diet, resulting in slower weight gain or a loss of nearly two pounds per year. This may seem insignificant, but taken over several years and across a large population segment, the weight loss adds up.

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