Finkelstein's study, reported online Dec. 13 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that high soda taxes wouldn't impact weight among consumers in the highest and lowest income groups. Using in-home scanners that tracked households' store-bought food and beverage purchases over the course of a year, the data included information on the cost and number of items purchased by brand and UPC code among different population groups.
Researchers estimated that a 20 percent soda tax would generate about $1.5 billion in annual revenue in the United States, while a 40 percent tax would generate about $2.5 billion. The average household cost would be $28.
Finkelstein explained that wealthier households seemed impervious to the tax because they can afford to pay it, while poorer income groups weren't as affected because they tend to buy lower-priced generic products or buy in bulk.
"It's largely very cheap calories for them," he said, adding that store brands such as Wal-Mart cola also contain more calories than the name-brand Coke.
Dr. Stephen Cook, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Golisano Children's Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), said the study is valuable because it echoes the results of others similar to it.
"It's good to see an amount of replication in the findings," said Cook, also an assistant professor of URMC's Center for Community Health. "It brings up an important point of how we should address obesity, as a disease or a public health threat."
Despite the modest weight loss resulting from the soda taxes, both Finkelstein and Cook support such a measure as one of many possible ways to attack obesity, which affects one-third of Americans.
As for the revenue generated, it can also tackl
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