Currently, candy and soda are considered food and are precluded from the state’s 6.25% sales tax. But Democrat state representative Kay Khan has proposed a bill that would mean candy and soda are not deemed food liable to a tax exemption.
The proposal has been met with dismay from the National Confectioners Association (NCA), whose members include Mars and Hershey.
NCA: Singling out candy
“This tax proposal is discriminatory and regressive,” Christopher Gindlesperger, vice President of public affairs & communications at the National Confectioners Association (NCA), told ConfectioneryNews.
“There is no reason to single out candy over any other food. Many confectionery products share a nutritional profile similar to other food items that are not subject to the proposed sales tax expansion, including cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream and other snack items,” he said.
Health tax to curb consumption, say supporters
Supporters of the bill argue a tax would discourage children from eating food perceived as unhealthy and claim the proposal would cut soda and candy consumption by 7-8%, based on trends in other states.
A 2014 National Obesity Survey in Mexico involving 1,500 adults found that 52% of Mexicans had reduced intake of sugar sweetened beverages in 2014 after a soda tax was introduced the previous year.
A report by the European Commission last year said taxes on sugary, salty or fatty foods did lead to reductions in consumption, but warned consumers may simply opt for cheaper products.
Money raised from Massachusetts' proposed candy and soda levy are intended to go towards school and district program for physical activity and obesity prevention.
‘Education – not laws and regulation’
The NCA’s Gindlesperger said: “If we want to get serious about obesity, it starts with education – not laws and regulation. Taxes do not make people healthier. Making smart, educated decisions about diet and exercise do.”
He said that consumers understood candy was a treat and added that most Americans enjoy candy twice a week, averaging 47 calories per day from confectionery items.
Gindlesperger cited a 2014 poll by Rasmussen Reports that found 72% of American adults surveyed opposed a sugar tax.
Earlier this year, the state of Connecticut ditched proposal to levy candy as part of a sugar tax bill. The proposed legislation now includes only carbonated soft drinks.
The Massachusetts bill H.2575 was heard by the state’s Joint Committee on Revenue on Tuesday.
A similar bill to remove the state’s sales tax exemption for candy and soda was proposed in 2012, but was later dismissed.