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.