Soda tax bills: Not a healthy choice for Texas

Every so often, we see proposals to “help people make healthier choices” by charging higher taxes on soda. This session of the Texas Legislature is no exception; two bills filed by Rep. Joe Farias (D-San Antonio), HB 735 and HB 779, would impose taxes on regular beverages.

In HB 735, the proposed tax is 5 cents per 12 ounces; in HB 779, it’s a penny per ounce. In both bills, retailers and wholesalers would be required to obtain a new permit to sell regular beverages, and the taxes collected would be allocated to the state’s education and health agencies to support children’s health programs.

The Texas Beverage Association supports healthy choices, but regressive and unfair sales taxes on a single type of product will not make Texans healthy. Here’s what you need to know about higher taxes on sweetened beverages:

• Soda taxes won’t make people healthy. Lots of researchers have tried to find evidence that soda taxes would lead to improvements in public health, and so far that evidence just isn’t there. For example, in a George Mason University study in 2010 found that even a huge 40% tax on soda could only be expected to produce an average annual weight loss of about 1.3 pounds per person. Another study looked at a 20% tax (higher than HB 735, lower than HB 779) and found the expected weight loss was too small to even measure on a bathroom scale.

• Public Opposes Soda Taxes. Considering how often we hear them proposed, it’s worth noting that nearly all attempts to impose new soda taxes have failed. Maine and Washington have tried it, but unhappy voters forced a referendum and repealed the taxes by a 2-1 margin. New York failed twice to pass soda taxes even with the governor’s support. Interestingly, two states that do have special taxes on soda — Arkansas and West Virginia — are in the Top 10 for obesity rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

What You Can Do: Contact your state representative and let him or her know that you’re opposed to HB 735 and HB 779 and all similar wrong-headed and ineffective tax proposals. You can also get the word out to your friends, neighbors and networks and counter misinformation in the media. Stay on top of the issue by visiting us here at or following @TxBev on Twitter.