Consumer Reports: 42% Of Americans Think Government Should Tax Unhealthy Behavior

Aug. 9, 2017

Consumer Reports (CR) examines the pros and cons of using so-called “behavior” or “sin” taxes as weapons in the complex war to end America’s obesity crisis in a new report, ”Can 'Sin Taxes' Solve America's Obesity Problem?,” published on today.

CR’s extensive report explores the growing effort across the nation and around the globe to hike taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks and sodas as a way to reduce sugar consumption and calories and help prevent obesity and related chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. The report features graphics that look at the health benefits associated with drinking more water and another on how much sugar can be avoided by switching to a different beverage.

A new nationally representative CR survey of 1,010 adults shows that while consumers have mixed feelings about sin taxes, among the 42 percent who favor them, the majority approve of taxing sugar sweetened beverages. The survey also finds that half of Americans say they would not cut back on unhealthy food even if it cost more. But most people—73 percent—say they would eat more healthy food if it cost less.

“It doesn’t take a radical change in a person’s diet to make a difference in weight. An average 20-ounce soda contains about 16 teaspoons of added sugar,” said Trisha Calvo, CR’s Health and Food Deputy Content Editor. A simple switch in daily beverages can help an individual drop unwanted pounds and live healthier, she said.

Replacing one 20-ounce sugary cola with water out of a daily diet could save 119 cups of sugar annually and result in 14 pounds of potential weight loss, according to the National Institutes of Health Body Weight Planner.

The full report on behavior taxes is available now on , It will also be in the upcoming October issue of Consumer Reports, which hits newsstands at the end of August. Follow CR on Facebook and Twitter for current news and reports.

Healthier Beverage Options 
The U.S. currently holds the unenviable title of most overweight nation on earth, with more than a third of its citizens now considered obese. Local governments around the country--including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Berkeley, California—have begun enacting laws that tax sodas and sugar sweetened drinks at a higher rate than other foods and beverages. Sugary drinks are a major contributor of daily American calorie intake, roughly 7 percent of all calories consumed, while contributing little to no nutritional value.

Research suggests that taxing soda and sugary drinks can help alleviate the problem but they are most effective when paired with subsidies for healthy foods and education programs. Experts say such efforts should focus on two groups, the young and the heaviest soda consumers.

In addition, reducing sugary drinks won’t help prevent obesity unless consumers replace those beverages with healthier choices. Water is the best choice since it provides 0 calories and is essential to good health.

Consumer Reports 2017 Survey Methodology 
In November 2016, Consumer Reports conducted a nationally representative telephone survey to assess American consumer opinion of government taxes and subsidies and their effects on behavior. Respondents were selected by means of random-digit dialing and were interviewed via phone. The data was statistically weighted so that respondents in the survey are demographically and geographically representative of the U.S. population. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

About Consumer Reports 
Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.

AUGUST 2017 
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