A new tax on sugary drinks in British Columbia should make us a little bit healthier as long as we can find other ways to quench our thirst.
In the NDP government’s budget presentation earlier this month, finance minister Carole James revealed that sugary drinks will be subject to PST starting this summer.
She said the tax measure comes in response to repeated recommendations from health experts, including the Medical Services Premium Task Force, and health professionals have since applauded the new tax. The Childhood Obesity Foundation says studies show sugary drinks contribute to obesity, a leading cause of Type 2 diabetes, and health outcomes have improved in jurisdictions where sugar taxes are levied. Diabetes Canada says a tax is a critical component of a broader strategy to promote healthy eating and drinking and cites research that shows Canadian youths, on average, drink more than half a litre of sugary drinks every day.
The Canadian Taxpayers Association, on the other hand, has said in recent years that sugar taxes don’t achieve desired results, pointing out the junk food has been taxed disproportionately for decades and that obesity rates rise even when soda consumption decreases.
The B.C. government anticipates the new tax generating $27 million in revenue next year, which it says could be invested into health care.
We think it’s hard to imagine that higher-priced sugary drinks wouldn’t have some small but measurable long-term effect on reducing consumption, though cola can be addictive and most people will fork over the extra cents without too much grumbling.
Even with a sin tax, pop is relatively cheap, lower-priced than a lot of healthier beverages the next aisle over. We can nudge people toward those choices, but some of their decision-making is going to come down to other consumer factors such as wages, and affordability of life and grocery bills.
We hope British Columbians fuel their body with what’s good for them, most of the time, and get enough to drink.