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Soda Taxachusetts: Good news for NH retailers

May 15. 2017 8:33PM

Maybe we could ask New Hampshire liquor stores to start carrying Coke by the case.

If our Bay State neighbors tax soda, we could make a killing supplying sugary drinks along with the low-cost alcohol that has long boosted the state budget.

Massachusetts state Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, wants to tax sugary drinks by 1 or 2 cents per ounce, depending on sugar content.

Support for this bad idea stems from two often overlapping arguments. First, there are the nutritional nannies who want to make soda more expensive in order to deter its consumption. Americans drink a lot of artificially-sweetened beverages, too much for our own good. That does not justify using the tax code to nudge us into behavior that our government finds more suitable.

Secondly, politicians want your money. The tax could add 24 cents to the price of a 12-ounce can of soda. The Harvard School of Public Health estimates that would generate $368 million a year.

Philadelphia hit soda distributors with a 1.5 cent per ounce tax on sweetened beverages on Jan. 1, and it is hurting local retailers. We don’t know how much soda consumption has fallen. City sales are off by as much as 50 percent, but suburban soda sales are up 20 percent.

Taxing soda would feed the spending addiction of Massachusetts politicians. But grocery and convenience store owners across New Hampshire’s southern tier should love the idea.

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