I really don’t understand the rationale behind soda taxes. According to The Slow Cook blog, yesterday Washington, D.C., dumped a proposed “soda tax” in favor of a tax on … soda and other soft drinks. You can’t make this stuff up.

In reality, what happened was that the city council changed the way the tax would work so that the shelf price of sodas and other soft drinks wouldn’t go up. The tax is levied at check-out and only shows up on the receipt.

There’s an estimated amount of money that the tax is expected to raise — $7.92 million annually. The money will go to fund D.C.’s Healthy Schools program.

What exactly is the purpose of the tax? Is it to raise money or curb consumption of unhealthy beverages?

Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) believes it will curb consumption, so she is going to continue to press for the original tax that would have added a penny per ounce of beverage because “it’s good health policy.”

Explain to me how a tax that is supposed to help curb the consumption of something is then expected to raise a certain amount of money. The reasoning behind these taxes is so convoluted.

One thing yesterday’s approved tax does that it wouldn’t have done in its previous form is tax artificially sweetened soft drinks. I’ve always been perplexed when any proposed soda tax is said to be a way to help people get healthy and prevent obesity, but artificially sweetened drinks are excluded from the tax. The dangers of artificial sweeteners may be debated, but study after study has shown that people who drink diet soft drinks usually have an equal or better chance of being overweight than those who don’t. It just never made sense to me to exclude diet drinks if the true reason for these taxes is to promote public health.

I’ve got a question for all of you reading this: Do you have a good reason to believe that any soda tax will curb consumption of unhealthy soft drinks and make people healthier? I’d love to understand your reasoning. Really, I would.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

D.C. passes confusing soda tax
Let's hope D.C. residents drink enough unhealthy beverages to pay for the Healthy Schools program.