A Tax on Soda Pop -- They Must Be Kidding
Don't make my Coke more expensive!
New York shoppers waited in a line that stretched one city block to protest a soda tax suggested by New York Governor David Paterson. The protest was one of many organized by Americans Against Food Taxes that describes itself as "a coalition of concerned citizens -- responsible individuals, financially strapped families, small and large businesses in communities across the country -- opposed to the government's proposed tax hike on food and beverages, including soda, juice drinks, and flavored milks."
The organization claims "82,000 individual petition signers," but its website manages to list some of the largest food and beverage companies in the United States who feel threatened by the tax, not the strapped families. Its leader Nelson Eusebio is also executive director of the National Supermarket Association as well as chairman of the New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes.
"An 18 percent tax hike on juice drinks and soda could be the final blow that takes away what I and so many others have called the 'American Dream.' We'll see more iron gates, and more stores closing their doors. It will devastate families and the communities we live in," says Eusebio.
It is a sad commentary on the health and well-being of this country if so many stores must depend on the sale of sugary drinks to survive.
A penny for your obesity thoughts
Dr. Brownell is a professor and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. Dr. Frieden is the health commissioner for the City of New York.
"A penny-per-ounce excise tax could reduce consumption of sugared beverages by more than 10%," the authors write. "It is difficult to imagine producing beverage change of this magnitude through education alone if government devoted massive resources to the task. In contrast, a sales tax on sugared drinks would generate considerable revenue, and as with the tax on tobacco, it could become a key tool in efforts to improve health," they conclude.
Brownell and Frieden reveal statistics to show that in the 1990s decade drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like carbonated and noncarbonated, sports, and energy beverages has increased almost 30%. They state that sugary beverages are the most significant reason for the obesity epidemic. Studies have shown that increased consumption of these drinks is associated with "increased body weight, poor nutrition, and displacement of more healthful beverages; increasing consumption increases risk of obesity and diabetes." The authors say that studies that do not support this relationship are funded by the beverage industry.
Getting juiced is not the answer
The website Hooked on Juice presents a chart comparing the calories, carbohydrates, carbohydrates from sugar, and teaspoons of sugar in 12 ounces of Coca-Cola compared to 12 ounces of popular fruit juices. The 12 ounces of Coke was actually lower in calories and almost the same or lower in teaspoons of sugar than the juices. Seeing these calorie counts in print is quite sobering because downing two cans of Coke a day will be adding 290 calories to the diet while two 12-ounce glasses of unsweetened grape juice will amount to 480 calories.
Drowning in one Big Gulp
According to the Delaware, Ohio Health District, a 32-ounce Big Gulp with no ice has the equivalent of 29 teaspoons of sugar while a 44-ounce cup contains 40 teaspoons. The Double Big Gulp amasses 59 teaspoons of that sweet stuff.
On NBC's Today Show nutritionist Joy Bauer said, "Trim 500 liquid calories from your daily diet and you'll save 3,500 calories a week. That's ONE pound lost per week and more than FIFTY pounds lost at the end of the year!"
Some of the items on her list of liquid calories:
Snapple Peach Iced Tea (16-oz. bottle) = 200 calories
Starbucks Chai Iced Tea Latte = Grande (16 oz.) 260 calories
Jamba Juice Banana Berry (classic smoothie)
Vitamin Water (20 oz. bottle) = 125 calories
Because of statements by nutritionists like Bauer, the beverage industry is fighting back by saying they are not totally responsible for the obesity crisis. According to the Huffington Post article "Food Lobby Mobilizes, As Soda Tax Bubbles Up," soft drink companies, supermarkets, fast food producers, and even agriculture interests are organizing to fight efforts to raise money for health care by taxing sweet drinks. The Senate Office of Public Records reports 21 companies spent $24 million during the first nine months of 2009 lobbying Congress to prevent an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas, juice drinks, and chocolate milk.
"To say soda is the only cause of obesity, that's not correct. Just walk down the street and count the number of White Castles or Burger Kings or Jack in the Box," said Nelson Eusebio of the National Supermarket Association, Americans Against Food Taxes, and New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes. "If we eliminate soda, would people stay away from fried food, hot dogs and all the other junk out there?"
The likelihood of an excise tax passing Congress is rather dim because key members of the Senate Finance Committee are quite sympathetic to the food industry. Chairman Max Baucus, Democrat from Montana, represents a state that produces a significant quantity of sugar beets. Ranking Republican Chuck Grassley is from Iowa, the largest corn grower in the country.
States' actions will be taxing
"It's just a matter of time," Brownell said. "If the tobacco tax is any precedent--and I think it is--it will happen first in the states. If politicians in other states see it happen in California, they will see it as a winning issue."
What should we do?
We bravely make the following suggestions:
Instead of waiting until our population becomes fatter and sicker, we need to take action now. If we want a healthy population, we must provide inexpensive healthy food and encourage people to make healthy choices.
Americans Against Food Taxes http://www.nofoodtaxes.com
Bauer, Joy. "No Refill Please! Drinks Can Add on the Pounds." Today MSNBC http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20249161
Brownell, Kelly D. and Thomas R. Frieden. "Ounces of Prevention -- The Public Policy Case for Taxes on Sugared Beverages." The New England Journal of Medicine 360 (April 30, 2009): 1805
"Cigarette Smoking." American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED_10_2x_Cigarette_Smoking.asp
Delaware General Health District. "Power of Healthy Choice: Student Nutrition and Fitness." http://www.delawarehealth.org/nutrition.htm
Hooked on Juice http://www.hookedonjuice.com
New Yorkers Agains Unfair Taxes http://www.nobeveragetax.com
Spolar, Christine and Joseph Eaton, "Food Lobby Mobilizes, As Soda Tax Bubbles Up." Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/04/soda-tax-mobilizes-food-l_n_345840.html