A ‘Healthy’ Tax On Soft Drinks

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - October 14, 2009

Soda has been the whipping boy of the nutrition police for years. Coke, Pepsi and their evil brethren have been accused of causing obesity among children, adults, skinny people and lab rats. Soda also is blamed for global warming, bad roads, Sean Penn movies and every shoestring that snaps right before you leave the house (I hate that).

Congress is poised to impose a hefty tax on soda and sugary beverages.

Of course it is.

There is a relentless effort to separate you from your wallet because if you think you’re broke, the government is beyond broke. Budget deficits, from the feds to small town America, are swelling. It’s no wonder there is a desperate effort to find more cash. That means anything and everything is subject to taxation.


But tax increases on soda and other drinks are not just about the kala. It’s about doing the right thing. We must eliminate childhood obesity because of the long-term health effects, but the reality is the federal coffers would realize a windfall of billions of dollars. Health group proponents including New York health commissioner Thomas Farley and Arkansas surgeon general Dr. Joe Thompson claim a penny an ounce on targeted beverages could raise more than $14.9 billion in its first year alone. By the way, those targeted drinks include soft drinks, energy drinks, sports beverages and many juices and iced teas. Sugar-free diet drinks are excluded.

If you are wondering if there is some connection to the ongoing healthcare bill, you’re right. Both of the aforementioned doctors love the idea of taxing to defray the cost of healthcare reform. Dr. Ken Fujimori of Scripps Health in San Diego and Dr. Mein Stamper of Harvard University both think it’s a splendid idea. Their support of the concept may be bifurcated. Yes, generated revenues may help pay for healthcare reform, but are they targeting the right culprit?

According to Katherine Mangu-Ward in the Washington Post, soda consumption per capita has remained steady for the past several years while obesity has continued to rise. It’s also clear there are myriad other foods and drink that can pack on the pounds other than soda. Milk is one of my favorite drinks. A cup (8 ounces) of whole milk has 146 calories with 7.9 grams of fat and 12.8 milligrams of sugar. The same serving of Coca Cola has 97 calories, 33 milligrams of sodium and 27 grams of carbs. Milk has more calories, more fat and even has sugar. So,why isn’t there a call for the end of milk? Oh, I know someone will say milk is natural, it has other benefits, etc. But we’re talking about obesity. Weight gain is too many calories in and not enough expended. I guess, using the logic of the nutrition police, we should replace whole milk with a diet Dr. Pepper.

Here is the bottom line. Information can be twisted and skewed to create any impression desired.

Unfortunately, there are those in government who will use any argument, including your health and your life, to get whatever they want. In this case, it’s more money. The proposal to tax soda is a guise for simply raising your taxes.

Of course, it never hurts to throw in a little fear or the future of your kids as an exclamation point.

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