Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Slate

September 12, 2012

Slate: Don't ban Big Gulps

(Continued)

Still, it's a leap to go from an analysis of whole-milk consumption to an endorsement of taxation as a tool for social engineering. A stereotypical image of a milk shopper is a mom_possibly a price-conscious one_stocking up for her family; supermarket soda purchases may have a different set of customers or even invoke a different set of responses from a given shopper. (Milk is a staple, for example, and soda an indulgence.)

A pricing experiment run at a hospital cafeteria in Boston in 2008 provides at least some indication that soda taxes may also help change drinking habits, though taken at face value its results suggest that taxation may have to be aggressive to wean soda drinkers from their beverage of choice. A team of public health researchers convinced the hospital administration to allow them to raise the price of a 20-ounce regular soda by about a third (from $1.30 to $1.75). In the weeks that followed, regular soda consumption dropped by about 26 percent, and was accompanied by a nearly offsetting increase (20 percent) in diet soda consumption. (Unlike the milk study, however, it's worth noting that the subjects of this study_cafeteria patrons at the Harvard-affiliated hospital_may not be representative of the average American.)

Taken together, these findings should make some adversaries of sin taxes at least reconsider their opposition. During his time as New York state governor, David Paterson proposed a sugar tax on the same beverages that Bloomberg hopes to ban in their 32-ounce form. The plan (supported by Bloomberg) was a nonstarter in large part because of fears of the impact on low-income soda addicts who would keep buying regular soda rather than the untaxed diet version. The findings of Khan et al. suggest that the income effects would be limited if a sugar tax creates even a modest price difference between regular and diet soda: Poor consumers will switch drinks rather than continuing to buy soda they can't afford. While 15 percent might sound like a lot of sticker shock, society has come to terms with cigarette taxes that, in New York City, constitute over a third of the price per pack.

Text Only
Slate
  • baby-generic.jpg For millennials, out-of-wedlock childbirth is the norm

    This month brings us yet another reminder that, for young Americans, having children outside of marriage is very much "the new normal," as The New York Times once put it.

    June 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • May 2014 was the hottest may in recorded history

    According to new data released this week, May 2014 is officially the warmest May in recorded history.
    Both NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency have tentatively ranked May at the top of historical measurements, though NASA's numbers are preliminary because crucial information is still missing from China.

    June 20, 2014

  • GM recalls soar past 20 million. Why don't consumers care?

    In case you thought there couldn't possibly be another General Motors recall so soon, you're just not thinking big enough. This week, GM said it was recalling 3.36 million more cars. The cause: an ignition switch defect that could result in keys carrying extra weight (read: a keychain) to slip out of position and shut the vehicle off abruptly during "some jarring event."

    June 18, 2014

  • No one is against devoted dads

    Father's Day is Sunday, which means that it's time for pundits and politicians to scold the American public - with special ire reserved for black members of the American public - for our supposed indifference to the wonder and awe of fatherhood.

    June 12, 2014

  • 74129880-graduates.jpg The fate of the overeducated and underemployed

    According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, about 44 percent of young bachelor's degree holders lucky enough to be working are employed in positions that technically don't require their degree. While that number isn't far off from the historical norm — 22-year-olds have always needed a little time to find their professional footing — the fraction stuck scraping bottom in truly low-paying jobs has grown quite a bit since the recession.

    June 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Skype's real-time language translator

    This week at Re/Code's Code Conference, Microsoft announced a real-time, multilingual translation beta called Skype Translate. The service can mediate between two video chatterers who speak different languages by providing text and audio translation after each person finishes speaking. Currently the service works for English and German, but Microsoft says it will support other languages soon. The beta will be released later this year.

    May 29, 2014

  • New Orleans does away with traditional public schools

    The second-graders paraded to the Dumpster in the rear parking lot, where they chucked boxes of old work sheets, notebooks and other detritus into the trash, emptying their school for good.

    May 29, 2014

  • Amazon sells steroids and stimulants banned in sports

    I have by no means executed a comprehensive search of wares sold by Amazon directly or through its third-party sellers, but I found other prescription drugs for sale without a prescription, including the antibiotic norfloxacin and the muscle relaxant methocarbamol. Both compounds, like clindamycin, warrant careful oversight to avoid complications or endangering public health, such as by breeding antibiotic resistance.

    May 29, 2014

  • 2010-Winter-Olympic-Games-001.jpg Nobody wants to host the Winter Olympics

    If we end up watching slopestyle from the Central Asia steppes in 2022, it will likely be because it's becoming clear that nobody in Europe wants to host these Olympics anymore. Publics may finally be getting wise to the fact that the long-term economic benefits of hosting mega-events like the Olympics or the World Cup are usually negligible at best.

    May 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Woman sues a New York Hospital for forcing a C-section. Can doctors do that?

    Though Dray's doctor claims he did not force her to have a C-section, her hospital record included a note signed by the hospital's director of maternal and fetal medicine that said, "I have decided to override her refusal to have a C-section."

    May 21, 2014