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Taxes: From Cigarettes to Caffeine

The St. Louis Today published an article in May that describes Senate Bill 44 (SB44) which looks to increase taxes on cigarettes to fill the ever-looming gap in the Illinois education budget. Currently Illinois has a $0.98 per pack tax on cigarettes, plus a $.10-$.15 per pack city tax.

Cigarette taxes are something that get raised time and time again to make budgets and bring in extra revenue. Why? They’re an easy target — cigarettes are easily one of the worst things for your health. Cost is a big drive to get people to stop smoking and become healthier. Inversely, the more people quit smoking the more this revenue stream goes away.

There’s plenty of other bad-for-you substances out there that I would actually support a tax on. Caffeinated products are one of them.

Caffeine is a drug present in a wide range of beverages (and some food items). Shelves and convenience store refrigerators are lined with caffeine-containing products from simple sodas to more exotic energy drinks.

What I would propose and support is a tax on beverages containing (on average) 20% or more than that found in coffee.

The following information is derived from the Mayo Clinic website:

Type of coffee (size) Caffeine (milligrams) per 8oz
Dunkin’ Donuts, brewed, 8 oz (240 mL) 72-103
Generic brewed, 8 oz (240 mL) 95-200
Generic instant, 8 oz (240 mL) 27-173

If we use the generic brewed type and the median amount of caffeine from that range (about 148mg/8oz), the tax would be proposed on beverages containing a concentration at or above 176mg/8oz.
Some common energy drink contents, derived from the Mayo Clinic site:

Sports or energy drink (size) Caffeine (milligrams) per 8oz
AMP, 8.4 oz (250ml) 71
Enviga, 12 oz (355 mL) 68
Full Throttle, 16 oz (480 mL) 72
Monster Energy, 16 oz (480 mL) 80
No Fear, 8 oz (240 mL) 83
No Name (formerly known as Cocaine), 8.4 oz (250 mL) 269
Red Bull, 8.3 oz (250 mL) 73
Rockstar, 8 oz (240 mL) 80

Note: The numbers were adjusted to an 8oz (240ml) serving size for easier comparison

Now, most of these drinks are quite mild, actually containing less caffeine than coffee, except for “No Name,” which contains significantly more.

As you can see, proposing a tax in this manner would not affect products that people consume containing a moderate amount of caffeine; only the strongest and highest concentrations would be taxed. This would do several things: Bring in extra revenue for municipalities, discourage consumption of beverages containing large concentrations of caffeine, and discourage drink manufacturers from creating products containing unhealthy amounts of caffeine.

Update: I found the caffeine database which lists caffeine content for a large number of beverages, mostly energy drinks. Some of the numbers are much higher than 176mg/8oz.

What’s your opinion on this? Would you support or oppose a tax on caffeinated drinks? Please comment below.

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  1. #1 by Jennifer Veach on July 2, 2010 - 9:26 pm

    Good idea. Those crazy energy drinks scare the hell out of me. They are VERY dangerous. =/

  2. #2 by Juanita Nita Mustain on July 2, 2010 - 9:38 pm

    I do enjoy the 5 hour energy shots….But if they only tax the highest content ones, would this really generate much revenue? And would companies reduce the amount of caffeine to stay just under the limit? Not the best idea, in my opinion.

  3. #3 by PopTart on July 2, 2010 - 9:53 pm

    As I'm discussing with you in the living room here… there's so much on the news about our nation being so obese and unhealthy, and w/all the sugar, pop is a major culprit in that. Maybe it SHOULD be taxed!

  4. #4 by PopTart on July 3, 2010 - 2:21 am

    Sure. Good reasoning if you follow the cigarette tax theory.

    I still believe marijuana should be legalized. Mega taxes AND lowering the crime rate, 2 stars!

    Lastly, as I just asked you… I thought the Illinois lottery was originally established for education funds?

    Would it get YOU to stop drinking pop, Mike Beach? Hell hath no fury like Mike on a caffeine withdrawal…

  5. #5 by Nimmy on July 4, 2010 - 3:36 am

    I actually think this is a good idea. Although I would say screw it and put a special tax on all caffeinated beverages. Of course this would not affect me too much as I drink Pepsi Max which does not have any caffeine.

    As for legalizing Marijuana, I am 50/50 on that.
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  6. #6 by LongIslandStart on July 5, 2010 - 9:45 pm

    Not sure where you get your info Jeff, but Pepsi Max is the most caffeinated non-energy drinks with 69 mg per 12 oz serving.

    • #7 by Mike Beach on July 6, 2010 - 2:38 am

      According to http://wilstar.com/caffeine.htm the only other one would be Jolt with 71.2mg/12oz. That's considering Red Bull as an energy drink (with 80mg/8.2oz)
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  7. #8 by Nimmy on July 6, 2010 - 2:12 am

    eh, whatever, so I made a mistake.
    Either way, my doctor said I can drink it.
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  8. #9 by Nimmy on July 6, 2010 - 4:57 am

    Now I remember why the doctor said I could drink it…
    No sugar! I am sure the no carbs, and no ??? [there was a 3rd thing it did not have]. HE would prefer that I had no soda, but he said Pepsi Max was ok if I could not stand the taste of Diet Coke / Diet Pepsi.
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