Taxing sodas column misses the big picture


Published: October 26,2009


The column surrounding taxing soda and trans-fat spotlights an ineffective approach to fighting obesity and its health-related illnesses. The idea of a tax takes the attention from where we should be focusing, which is educating consumers on healthy consumption and promoting physical activity.  

By focusing on sole items, we are missing the bigger picture.  As a registered dietitian, I educate my clients that a healthy lifestyle is about moderation, balanced calorie intake and taking part in appropriate levels of exercise. After all, obesity is a multi-causal issue that can’t be solved with a sliver bullet like targeting one food, beverage or ingredient.  A solution to our nation’s rising obesity rates will require comprehensive efforts to educate Americans about the importance of calorie balance.  

As a consultant to the food and beverage industry, I know that taxing foods/beverages, under the means of promoting better health, has not been proven effective. Currently, two states that have imposed taxes on soft drinks, West Virginia and Arkansas, are among those with the highest obesity rates in the country.

Perhaps, by focusing our policies on promoting healthy behavior, rather than penalizing individuals, we will end up with a far more effective and sustainable approach to eliminating obesity and improving health in America. 


Jan Tilley, MS, RD, LD 

Jan Tilley & Associates Inc.

San Antonio, Texas

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