In favor of the NY soda tax

8 03 2010

One of the few good ideas proposed by New York governor David Paterson during his governership — and recently backed by New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg — is a soda tax, a.k.a. fat tax, that would attribute a penny per ounce to soda, flavored water, iced tea and other sugary drinks sold at convenience and grocery stores. (Diet sodas would not be included.)

This proposal acknowledges that the increased risk of sugary drinks can lead to short- and long-term health problems, which eventually stress health care and add to the cost of an already expensive system. I agree that these goods, which are generally poor for people’s health, should be taxed. Cigarette taxes in New York City were raised by $.62 per pack last year because of nicotine. People can’t smoke in bars, restaurants or at the work place. Beer, wine and liquor are taxed because of alcohol in New York City, from $.12 to a $1 per gallon.

While the sugar from sodas aren’t as directly destructive as nicotine or alcohol, they still contribute mightily to poor health. The Brooklyn Food Coalition reported in a Web site post last year that that a Harvard Medical School study found that each additional 12 ounce sugary soda consumed per day increases the odds of a child becoming obese by 60 percent.

And yet bodega owners are complaining to New York City’s papers that the penny-per-ounce tax will “kill small local businesses,” according to one bodega owner in an amNew York story. If you buy a Sprite on a regular basis, would you make the decision not to buy it if it costs an extra 12 or 16 or 24 cents? Chances are you’ll be willing to fork over the extra quarter, or dime and two pennies. Plus, the bodega owners probably make most of their money off cigarette and alcohol sales in the first place. An extra 12 or 16 cents per Coke or Sprite isn’t going to be the tipping point in their business’ fortunes.

If nothing else, our government, whether it’s on a federal, state or local level, has a social responsibility to look out for the public’s general health. There is a seemingly never-ending amount of evidence that our society can’t protect itself from its drink and food choices. Too many people eat what they want and not necessarily what’s best for their long-term health.

If paying 12 or 16 or 24 extra cents to purchase a drink is what it takes to drive down soda consumption and possibly help steer people toward healthier choices, then it’s a great move. But if people continue to consume as they had on a pre-tax level, then the $400 million or more that could be generated on an annual basis from the soda tax, as has been reported, is a piece of pie that our city and state government could use, hopefully to a positive effect.

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9 03 2010
Page Seven

I don’t agree. If people want to eat themselves to death, then let them. It’s not the govt duty to ensure everyone acts right. People should be able to live whatever way they want to live, without being penalized for it.

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