Readers React: A soda tax might reduce sugar consumption, but it won’t save lives

Cans of Super Bowl-branded soda are stacked in a grocery store in 2017.
(Richard B. Levine / TNS)

To the editor: Economists Hunt Allcott, Benjamin B. Lockwood and Dmitry Taubinsky are wrong about soda taxes, which fill the coffers of our cities and legislatures but do not save lives.

The op-ed piece does not show survival statistics. In addition, many of those who gave up on tobacco products became food addicts with attendant weight gain and aberrant health issues.

Sodas with non-nutritive sweeteners are not taxed and are usually replacements for the sugar-filled ones, but they have a similar pernicious effect: They block the “sugar high” expected from the release of serotonin and dopamine. This effect generally leads to continued eating in an attempt to attain that nirvana state.

Taxation cannot beat brain chemistry. The human condition will find ways to override reason in an irrational world controlled by the media and political power motivated by profit, not science or honesty.


Jerome P. Helman, M.D., Venice

The writer is a gastroenterologist specializing in nutrition.


To the editor: I very much appreciate the work of Allcott, Lockwood and Taubinksky. However, advocating only for soda taxes misses the primary problem facing America’s public health: Our entire food delivery system is laced with processed sugar.


In my book, “Spiced: The Global Marketing of Psychoactive Substances,” I recommend a 500% tax on sugar delivered to food processors such as the Coca-Cola Co., fast-food chains and even your neighborhood restaurant. Initially those firms will raise prices to consumers to preserve their profits.

Ultimately, to reduce costs and to remain competitive, they will all simultaneously reduce the sugar so deeply embedded in their products.

John L. Graham, Irvine

The writer is a professor emeritus at the UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business.

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