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Most Americans Oppose Soda, Candy Taxes

They say it's not government's role to try to influence what people eat, drink, Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll finds
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- Most U.S. adults aren't sweet on the idea of soda and candy taxes, and many doubt the bigger price tags would trim the national waistline.

That's the finding of a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll released Thursday. In the online survey of more than 2,100 adults, respondents were opposed to government taxes on sugary drinks and candy by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

Between 56 percent and 58 percent said no to such taxes, while only 21 to 23 percent were in favor.

"This is a strong vote against the 'nanny state,'" said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll.

"The idea of taxing calorie-rich candies and sodas may be popular with some public health advocates, who see them as major causes of the nation's obesity epidemic, but it is very unpopular with the public," Taylor said.

The poll results come at a time of rising debate over the potential health impact of taxing "junk food." Many U.S. states do have sales taxes on soda, but they are small -- and not aimed at driving down Americans' thirst for sugary drinks, said Kelly Brownell, a professor of psychology at Yale University and co-founder of the school's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

"Sales taxes were intentionally kept small so they wouldn't affect consumption," said Brownell, a long-time advocate of a bigger tax that would make consumers think twice about that sugary drink.

For several years, Brownell and his colleagues have pushed for a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sweetened beverages (not just soda). That would ultimately boost the cost of sweet drinks by about 20 percent. And unlike sales taxes, which consumers do not see until they get to the cash register, excise taxes show up on the sticker price -- when people are making the decision to buy or not.

In a 2011 study, Brownell's team estimated that a national penny-per-ounce tax would cut Americans' sugary drink intake by one-quarter. The researchers also projected that the tax could generate $79 billion in revenue over five years.

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