Taxing Juice And Soft Drinks - Health Care or Sick Pay?
Posted Sep 27 2009 12:00am
A diet which is void of soft drinks and fast foods - the two top contributors to the obesity epidemic - is going to be a step toward better health. Here's a question, though: which is more fattening, apple juice or sugar-laden soda? Judging from the calories, the answer would be apple juice, which doesn't contain much more nutrition either. You can reduce your risk of sickness or obesity by avoiding beverages (and foods) with little to no nutritional benefit.
Not to bash apple juice, that basic beverage of preschool, but the example shows that when it comes to taxing junk food, or even defining it, a hundred inconsistencies crop up to test our inner certitude. Would artificially enriched potato chips count as junk or health food? President Obama is wading into a complicated debate if he takes action on his recent statement that a tax on soft drinks is worth considering. That followed an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that suggested a tax of a penny an ounce on drinks with sugar added as a way to fund healthcare initiatives and whittle waistlines at the same time. As such proposals find support at the federal and state levels, it's important to clarify exactly what lawmakers hope to accomplish, and to create coherent policies rather than to simply tax one snack or another.
True, there is no known health advantage to soda; people would be better off consuming it as a treat in their diet rather than as a basic food group, gulped by the quart cups popular at convenience stores. But the widening of the American silhouette is more complicated than the tax proposals imply, and is not yet fully understood. Remember the low-fat craze of the 1990s? The food was lower in fat, but not the consumers, who swallowed enough bagels and nonfat cookies to keep obesity rates climbing. Nor did fingering carbs as the next culprit slow the fattening of the country; consumers turned to giant helpings of bacon and prime rib.
Numerous worthwhile studies connect high intake of soft drinks, with their heavy doses of cheap high-fructose corn syrup, to weight problems -- which is not the same as saying the situation would reverse with reduced consumption. High tobacco taxes appear to have successfully lowered smoking rates because smokers have no real choices when cigarettes grow too expensive for a daily habit. Calories, on the other hand, come in many forms. Many dietitians now suspect that heaping portions, along with lack of exercise, are the main contributors to obesity; a more effective tactic, though not a fairer one, might tax restaurants that pile food on the plate. ( source )
Comments: Realize that soft drinks are 'wasted' calories, with no nutrients whatsoever. While I'm not a fan of just taxing anything that could have some negative consequences associated with it if consumed in large quantities (last I checked, you can die from drinking too much water - cause: kidney failure; but you'd have to drink A LOT!), the fact is that soft drinks do contribute to the demise of Americans' health. Education and rewards for those who choose to live healthy should be the focus. In the end, we may find that the soaring health care costs are ultimately just going to be paid by overtaxation.