Lots of news this week about a soda tax, both locally and world wide. If you live in the Chicagoland area it has been reported a once cent per ounce tax on soda (we call it pop in these parts), sports drinks, and lemonade is in the works. Basically a tax on most drinks that contain a lot of sugar. In world news the World Health Organization issued a recommendation that the cost of sugary beverages should be forced to increase by 20%. They did not go so far as to call for taxes to force that rise but, lets be honest here, thats the only way this is going to happen. Let me discuss this complex issue further.
I am very torn on the idea of a soda tax, or extra tax on any sugary beverage. From a health perspective the consumption of toomuch sugar has been one of the causes of rising obesity and diabetes rates in developed nations. Obesity and diabetes are serious health concerns and are connected to just about every disease process you can think of, including things like spine pain and arthitis. In America diabetes and pre diabetes costs up $322 billion a year and one out of every five health care dollars is spent caring for people with diabetes. Curbing the consumption of sugary drinks, soda especially, appeals to me as a healthcare provider because these drinks have little to no nutritional benefit and are making us sick.
My problem with a soda tax is that I am a huge proponent of free will. The notion that we need the government to step in like mom and dad to force us to be healthy is a problem for me. A long time ago we stopped buying soda to keep in our house, this doesn’t mean we don’t drink it though. In our family soda is more of a treat, something we might get at the movies or with the occasional pizza. I don’t think I could drink anything but a pop with popcorn at the movies. My point is we made the decision that soda was not going to be a regular choice of drink in our house because we understand how unhealthy it is. That is a decision that just about everyone can make, we don’t need the government making it for us. I could write a huge list of things the government has decided was unhealthy or not good for us and stepped in to tell us no but then this post would never end. I’ll just comment that we can be responsible enough to make our own educated decisions about our health and well being, we don’t need the government to do it for us.
My other issue with taxes like these is I see them as a bad attempt by politicians to appear concerned for our health. They talk about these taxes as a way to improve our health but the real reason they impose them, as they want to do in Cook County, is because they need the money. On one hand they are trying to say don’t drink this stuff but on the other they need you to because they need the money. I have the same problem with the high cigarette taxes in Illinois. I hate smoking, I think it is a terrible thing to do and will destroy your health but if you still choose to smoke despite the health warning who am I to penalize you for it. When the taxes get raised on smoking it isn’t because the government is concerned for your health and wants you to stop. They raise it because they know you won’t stop, or can’t, and are counting on it for the money. That is the same thing with the soda tax, once the once cent an ounce tax gets passed don’t be surprised in a few years if they raise it a little more. Did you know that many municipalities who raise these taxes, borrow against the amount they believe they will get? They don’t just raise the tax and wait for the money to roll in, they raise the tax and then borrow the amount they expect to get and then spend that money as fast as they can. That is what is going to happen in Cook County, I would bet my life.
There are a few studies that show these taxes do curb consumption but at what price. These taxes have been shown to hurt the poorest among us and in reality don’t teach people what the real problem with sugary beverages is. What good are these politicians really doing? Who are they serving? A while ago I heard the term “taxing body” this refers to all aspects of government that can levy a tax and use those dollars to operate. While you might think that in a government of, for and by the people, the taxing body would mean us but you are wrong. The taxing body is who your politicians are working for, not you.
Soda, or pop, or coke, (whatever you want to call it) isn’t a healthy everyday drink but it’s ok for a now and again treat. It is one of the big contributors to obesity and diabetes in America and much of the world. To help improve your health, stop drinking it, or cut way back. Drink more water, I know it’s not fun but it is the only liquid your body needs, it is the only liquid every cell in your body wants. Finally don’t buy into the whole government is concerned for your health so we are going to tax you to change your behavior gig. They don’t care about our health and actually hope we don’t stop drinking soda because they desperately need the money, especially in Crook County.