Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-lfgmx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-27T11:52:41.574Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Designing a just soda tax

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 June 2023

Douglas MacKay*
Affiliation:
The Department of Public Policy, Abernethy Hall, Room 217, Campus Box 3435, 131 S. Columbia Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA
Alexandria Huber-Disla
Affiliation:
77 Vilcom Center Dr #340, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, USA
*
Corresponding author: Douglas MacKay; Email: dmackay@email.unc.edu

Abstract

Soda taxes are controversial. While proponents point to their potential health benefits and the public projects that could be funded with their revenue, critics argue that they are paternalistic and regressive. In this paper, we explore the prospects for designing a just soda tax, one that appropriately balances the often-competing ethical considerations of promoting social welfare, respecting people’s autonomy and ensuring distributive fairness. We argue that policymakers have several paths forward for designing a just soda tax, but that the considerations relevant to ethical policy design are more complicated than is sometimes acknowledged.

Type
Article
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Akerlof, G.A. and Shiller, R.J. 2016. Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Allcott, H., Lockwood, B. and Taubinsky, D. 2019. Regressive sin taxes, with an application to the optimal soda tax. Quarterly Journal of Economics 134, 15571626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alvarado, M., Penney, T.L., Unwin, N., Murphy, M.M. and Adams, J. 2021. Evidence of a health risk ‘signaling effect’ following the introduction of a sugar-sweetened beverage tax. Food Policy 102, 102104.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Andreyeva, T., Kelly, I.R. and Harris, J.L. 2011. Exposure to food advertising on television: associations with children’s fast food and soft drink consumption and obesity. Economics and Human Biology 9, 221233.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Andreyeva, T., Marple, K., Marinello, S., Moore, T.E. and Powell, L.M. 2022. Outcomes following taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Network Open 5, e2215276.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Arias, E., Tejada-Vera, B. and Ahmad, F. 2021. Provisional life expectancy estimates for January through June, 2020, Vital Statistics Rapid Release 10. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bailey, Z.D., Feldman, J.M. and Bassett, M.T. 2021. How structural racism works – racist policies as a root cause of U.S. racial health inequities. New England Journal of Medicine 384, 768773.Google ScholarPubMed
Barnhill, A. and King, K.F. 2013. Ethical agreement and disagreement about obesity prevention policy in the United States. International Journal of Health Policy and Management 1, 117120.Google ScholarPubMed
Berr, J. 2017. Diet soda makers sued over ‘misleading’ ads. CBS News, 19 October.Google Scholar
Bhattarcharya, J. and Sood, N. 2011. Who pays for obesity. Journal of Economic Perspectives 25, 139158.Google Scholar
Bhutta, N., Chang, A.C., Dettling, L.J. and Hsu, J.W. 2020. Disparities in wealth by race and ethnicity in the 2019 survey of consumer finances. FEDS Notes. Washington, DC: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.Google Scholar
Blumenthal-Barby, J.S. 2012. Between reason and coercion: ethically permissible influence in health care and health policy contexts. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 22, 345366.Google ScholarPubMed
Blumgart, J. 2016. A soda tax is fundamentally regressive. What if it’s Philadelphia’s best hope for progressive change? The Nation, 23 May.Google Scholar
Braveman, P.A., Arkin, E., Proctor, D., Kauh, T. and Holm, N. 2022. Systemic and structural racism: definitions, examples, health damages, and approaches to dismantling. Health Affairs 41, 171178.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Brownell, K.D. and Warner, K.E. 2009. The perils of ignoring history: big tobacco played dirty and millions died. how similar is big food? The Milbank Quarterly 87, 259294.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Brownell, K.D., Farley, T., Willett, W.C., Popkin, B.M., Chaloupka, F.J., Thompson, J.W. and Ludwig, D.S. 2009. The public health and economics benefits of taxing sugar-sweetened beverages. New England Journal of Medicine 361, 15991605.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Buchanan, A.E. and Brock, D.W. 1990. Deciding for Others: The Ethics of Surrogate Decision Making. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Burke, K. 2009. Coca-Cola busted for big fat rotten lies. The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 April.Google Scholar
Carter, I. 2011. Respect and the basis of equality. Ethics 121, 538571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cawley, J. and Frisvold, D.E. 2016. The pass-through of taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages to retail prices: the case of Berkeley, California. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 36, 303326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chetty, R., Hendren, N., Kline, P., Saez, E., and Turner, N. 2014. Is the United States still a land of opportunity? Recent trends in intergenerational mobility. American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 104, 141147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chetty, R., Stepner, M., Abraham, S., Lin, S., Scuderi, B., Turner, N., Bergeron, A. and Cutler, D. 2016. The association between income and life expectancy in the United States, 2001–2014. Journal of the American Medical Association 315, 17501766.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cholbi, M. 2017. Paternalism and our rational powers. Mind 126, 123153.Google Scholar
Conlon, C., Rao, N.L. and Wang, Y. 2021. Who pays sin taxes? Understanding the overlapping burdens of corrective taxes. NBER Working Paper Series, 29392.Google Scholar
Conly, S. 2013. Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google ScholarPubMed
Connell, P.M., Brucks, M. and Nielsen, J.H. 2014. How childhood advertising exposure can create biased product evaluations that persist into adulthood. Journal of Consumer Research 41, 119134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cornell, N. 2015. A third theory of paternalism. Michigan Law Review 113, 12951336.Google Scholar
Cornelsen, L. and Smith, R.D. 2018. Viewpoint: soda taxes – four questions economists need to address. Food Policy 74, 138142.Google Scholar
Darwall, S. 2006. The value of autonomy and autonomy of the will. Ethics 116, 263284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Davies, B. and Savulescu, J. 2019. Solidarity and responsibility in health care. Public Health Ethics 12, 133144.Google ScholarPubMed
Davis, A. 2019. Options for a less regressive sales tax in 2019. Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, 26 September. https://itep.org/options-for-a-less-regressive-sales-tax-2019/.Google Scholar
de Marneffe, P. 2006. Avoiding paternalism. Philosophy & Public Affairs 34, 6894.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Debnam, J. 2017. Selection effects and heterogeneous demand responses to the Berkeley soda tax vote. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 99, 11721187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DeGrazia, D. and Millum, J. 2021. A Theory of Bioethics. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dewey, C. 2017. Why Chicago’s soda tax fizzled after two months — and what it means for the anti-soda movement. The Washington Post, 10 October.Google Scholar
Enoch, D. 2022. Autonomy as non-alienation, autonomy as sovereignty, and politics. Journal of Political Philosophy 30, 143165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Etilé, F. and Sharma, A. 2015. Do high consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages respond differently to price changes? A finite mixture IV-Tobit approach. Health Economics 24, 11471163.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Faden, R., Bernstein, J. and Shebaya, S. 2020. Public health ethics. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2020 Edition), ed. E.N. Zalta. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/publichealth-ethics/.Google Scholar
Falbe, J. 2020. The ethics of excise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages. Physiology & Behavior 225, 17.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ferdman, R. 2015. How Coca-Cola has tricked everyone into drinking so much of it. The Washington Post, 5 October.Google Scholar
Flanigan, J. 2017. Seat belt mandates and paternalism. Journal of Moral Philosophy 14, 291314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Friesen, P. 2018. Personal responsibility within health policy: unethical and ineffective. Journal of Medical Ethics 44, 5358.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Grogger, J. 2017. Soda taxes and the prices of sodas and other drinks: evidence from Mexico. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 99, 481498.Google Scholar
Groll, D. 2012. Paternalism, respect, and the will. Ethics 122, 692720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Haigh, S. 2019. States renew push for taxes on sugary drinks. AP News, 1 April.Google Scholar
Hanna, J. 2018. In Our Best Interest: A Defense of Paternalism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Harris, J.L., Pomeranz, J.L., Lobstein, T. and Brownell, K.D. 2009. A crisis in the marketplace: how food marketing contributes to childhood obesity and what can be done. Annual Review of Public Health 30, 211225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Healy, M. 2016. Does the soda industry manipulate research on sugary drinks’ health effects? Los Angeles Times, 31 October.Google Scholar
Heath, J. 2020. The Machinery of Government: Public Administration and the Liberal State. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hero, J.O., Zaslavsky, A.M. and Blendon, R.J. 2017. The United States leads other nations in differences by income in perceptions of health and health care. Health Affairs 36, 10321040.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kass, N.E. 2001. An ethics framework for public health. American Journal of Public Health 91, 17761782.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kass, N., Hecht, K., Paul, A. and Birnbach, K. 2014. Ethics and obesity prevention: ethical considerations in 3 approaches to reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. American Journal of Public Health 104, 787795.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kniess, J. 2018. A social division of responsibility for health. Les ateliers de l’éthique 13, 105122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Krans, B. 2017. Lawsuit: Coca-Cola uses false advertising to sell unhealthy drinks. Healthline, 9 February.Google Scholar
Le Grand, J. and New, B. 2015. Government Paternalism: Nanny State or Helpful Friend? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Lesser, L.I., Ebbeling, C.B., Goozner, M., Wypij, D. and Ludwig, D.S. 2007. Relationship between funding sources and conclusion among nutrition-related scientific articles. PLoS Medicine 4, e5.Google ScholarPubMed
Lesser, L.I., Zimmerman, F.J. and Cohen, D.A. 2013. Outdoor advertising, obesity, and soda consumption: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health 13.Google ScholarPubMed
Li, W. and Dorfman, J.H. 2019. The implications of heterogeneous habit in consumer beverage purchases on soda and sin taxes. Food Policy 84, 111120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Litman, E.A., Gortmaker, S.L., Ebbeling, C.B. and Ludwig, D.S. 2018. Source of bias in sugar-sweetened beverage research: a systematic review. Public Health Nutrition 21, 23452350.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
MacKay, D. 2019a. Basic income, cash transfers, and welfare state paternalism. Journal of Political Philosophy 27, 422447.Google Scholar
MacKay, D. 2019b. Parenting the parents: the ethics of parent-targeted paternalism in the context of anti-poverty policies. In Philosophy and Child Poverty: Reflections on the Ethics and Politics of Poor Children and Their Families, ed. Brando, N. and Schweiger, G., 321340. London: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Malik, V.S., Popkin, B.M., Bray, G.A., Després, J. and Hu, F.B. 2010. Sugar sweetened beverages, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk. Circulation 121, 13561364.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Mandava, A. and Millum, J. 2013. Manipulation in the enrollment of research participants. Hastings Center Report 43, 3847.Google ScholarPubMed
McCrystal, L. 2020. Philadelphia won the soda tax battle. But across the U.S., Big Soda is winning the war. The Philadelphia Inquirer, 3 February.Google Scholar
Murphy, L. and Nagel, T. 2004. The Myth of Ownership: Taxes and Justice. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Nestle, M. 2015. Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (And Willing). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Ogden, C.L., Kit, B.K., Carroll, M.D. and Park, S. 2011. Consumption of sugar drinks in the United States, 2005–2008. NCHS Data Brief August, no. 71. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
Park, S., Lundeen, E.A. and Pan, L. 2018. Impact of knowledge of health conditions on sugar-sweetened beverage intake varies among US adults. American Journal of Health Promotion 32, 14021408.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Pereda, P. and Garcia, C.P. 2020. Price impact of taxes on sugary drinks in Brazil. Economics & Human Biology 39, 100898.Google ScholarPubMed
Peters, J. 2017. Santa Fe soda tax rejected after record-high turnout. The New Mexico Political Report, 2 May.Google Scholar
Pigou, A.C. 1962. The Economics of Welfare (4th edn). New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
Pitofsky, M. 2020. Berkeley passes ban on candy, soda at registers. The Hill, 25 September.Google Scholar
Price, A. 2019. Do soda taxes work? Using politics and science to reduce obesity and diabetes. Berkeley Public Health Newsletter, 24 August.Google Scholar
Quong, J. 2011. Liberalism Without Perfection. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Rosinger, A., Herrick, K., Gahche, J. and Park, S. 2017. Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among U.S. adults, 2011–2014. NCHS data brief, no 270. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
Sánchez-Pimienta, T.G., Batis, C., Lutter, C.K. and Rivera, J. 2016. Sugar-sweetened beverages and the main sources of added sugar intake in the Mexican population. Journal of Nutrition 146, 1888S1896S.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sanders, B. 2016. A soda tax would hurt Philly’s low-income families. Philadelphia Magazine, 24 April.Google Scholar
Schillinger, D., Tran, J., Mangurian, C. and Kearns, C. 2016. Do sugar-sweetened beverages cause obesity and diabetes? Industry and the manufacture of scientific controversy. Annals of Internal Medicine 165, 895897.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Scoccia, D. 2008. In defense of hard paternalism. Law and Philosophy 27, 351381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Seiler, S., Tuchman, A. and Yao, S. 2021. The impact of soda taxes: pass-through, tax avoidance, and nutritional effects. Journal of Marketing Research 58, 2249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Semega, J., Kollar, M., Shrider, E.A. and Creamer, J.F. 2020. U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60-270 (RV), Income and Poverty in the United States: 2019. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Publishing Office.Google Scholar
Shafer-Landau, R. 2005. Liberalism and paternalism. Legal Theory 11, 181191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shelby, T. 2016. Dark Ghettos: Injustice, Dissent, and Reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Sher, S. 2011. A framework for assessing immorally manipulative marketing tactics. Journal of Business Ethics 102, 97118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shiffrin, S. 2000. Paternalism, unconscionability doctrine, and accommodation. Philosophy and Public Affairs 29, 205250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Siegel, A.W. and Merritt, M.W. 2019. An overview of conceptual foundations, ethical tensions, and ethical frameworks in public health. In The Oxford Handbook of Public Health Ethics, ed. Mastroianni, A.C., Kahn, J.P. and Kass, N.E., 511. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Tsai, G. 2014. Rational persuasion as paternalism. Philosophy & Public Affairs 42, 78112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Valinsky, J. 2019. Coke targeted teens by saying sugary drinks are healthy. CNN, 19 December.Google Scholar
Valizadeh, P. and Ng, S.W. 2021. Would a national sugar-sweetened beverage tax in the United States be well targeted? American Journal of Agricultural Economics 103, 961986.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Vartanian, L.R., Schwartz, M.B. and Brownell, K.D. 2007. Effects of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Public Health 97, 667675.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Véliz, C., Maslen, H., Essman, M., Taillie, L.S. and Savulescu, J. 2019. Sugar, taxes, & choice. Hastings Center Report 49, 2231.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Waldron, J. 2017. One Another’s Equals: The Basis of Human Equality. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wilkinson, T.M. 2013. Nudging and manipulation. Political Studies 61, 341355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wilkinson, T.M. 2017. Counter-manipulation and health promotion. Public Health Ethics 10, 257266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wilson, J. 2021. Philosophy of Public Health: Beyond the Neglectful State. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wolff, J. 2006. Making the world safe for utilitarianism. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 58, 122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Woodward-Lopez, G., Kao, J. and Ritchie, L. 2010. To what extent have sweetened beverages contributed to the obesity epidemic? Public Health Nutrition 14, 499509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zamir, E. and Medina, B. 2008. Law, morality, and economics: integrating moral constraints with economic analysis of law. California Law Review 96, 323392.Google Scholar
Zimmerman, F.J. 2011. Using marketing muscle to sell fat: the rise of obesity in the modern economy. Annual Review of Public Health 32, 285306.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed