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Taxing Soft Drinks?
This week's New England Journal of Medicine contained a very, very interesting proposal put forth by a few prominent physicians and researchers working on the obesity crisis in America.
They propose that beverages loaded with sugar should be considered a public health hazard (much like cigarettes) and should be taxes. The proposal calls for an excise tax of "a penny an ounce" for beverages like sugar sweetened soft drinks that have added sugars. They cite research that links obesity to heart disease, diabetes, cancers, and other health problems. They say sugar sweetened beverages should be taxed in order to curb consumption and help pay for the increasing health care costs of obesity.
They estimate that the tax would generate about $14.9 billion in the first year alone and would increase prices of soft drinks by about 15-20%. That is big money, but at what cost?
My personal opinion is that while the tax would generate a lot of money that could be put to good use on anti-obesity programs, it is singling out one industry when obesity has numerous contributing factors. Calories Americans are getting from beverages have actually gone down in the past decade, but obesity rates still climb. Soft drinks alone are not making us fatter.
Americans need to pay closer attention to portion sizes and overall calories coming into their bodies from all sources. We know that Americans also eat too much fried food, candy, ice cream, etc. Should we tax everything that is "bad" for us? Absolutely not! And these foods are not "bad" when consumed in reasonable quantities in reasonable frequency.
We also need to learn how to move our bodies more to burn off some of the sweet treats that we love to indulge in. Weight loss is a simple equation that I don't get tired of explaining again and again: Move more and eat less.
Taxing soft drinks will not decrease heart disease risk...exercising more and losing body fat by consuming less calories definitely will!