Monday, November 2, 2009

Drink to Your Health!

I keep seeing an annoying television commercial that features a sympathetic, presumably lower income, mother who tells us, in a very serious tone that, and I'm paraphrasing here, "poor people need junk food too - please don't tax our already overextended budgets." The commercial attempts to illicit sympathy for the underprivileged who will be forced to go without their soda and fake fruit-flavored drinks if a law of this nature passes. Can you imagine anything more horrifying?

For starters, we ALL need as much incentive as possible to eat healthier and if a three cent tax helps in any way, then Booyah! - I'm all for it. Secondly, for a number of reasons, lower income individuals and children tend to be more overweight than those who earn a higher income. There are educational reasons and cultural reasons at play, but the biggest reason is likely that overprocessed, minimally nutritious foods are cheaper than their fresher and more natural counterparts. And thanks to scientifically proven marketing methods and modern manufacturing, it is not only tasty and convenient, but you can easily be lulled into thinking it's not really that bad....or even fooled into believing that it's beneficial.

One five year old child I know brings ramen noodles, potato chips, and a "juice" drink (containing little, if any actual juice) to school every day. Devoid of protein and complex carbohydrates and, frankly anything of redeeming nutritive value, this is truly the lunch made in hell. He has a toddler sister and Mom is expecting a third child (heh - that part sounds familiar) - perhaps their budgets are stretched too thin? Or perhaps his parents truly don't know any better. I don't know.

Back to the commercial. It's really a complete no-brainer that the less soda and sugary artificially flavored drinks a population imbibes, the better. There is actually no real downside, despite what our friends, the drinks manufacturers would like us to think.

If a tax is ultimately in the best interest of the entire US population, if it would very effectively raise money for nutrition education and for programs to help improve the diets of our youth and if it will contribute, even in a small way, to the long term health of our children (and ourselves), how can it be a bad thing?

No one, even those of us who delight in our daily diet soda, no one, NEEDS soda. No one NEEDS high fructose filled, artificially flavored, chemically enhanced beverages. And if you must (I use that loosely) have them, then pony up that three cents, knowing that it will do some good down the line. And yes, as a non-coffee drinker, I readily admit to my diet soda habit - it's no secret.

With regard to the overall obesity problem, I realize that there is blame to spread around, but when we have a well-funded national campaign to convince voters that the underprivileged will be deprived if a soda tax passes, that is just more evidence to me that our nutritional priorities are completely fouled up in this country. Common sense doesn't come with a huge lobbying budget, but I certainly hope in this case it wins out.

Meanwhile, I'll be making a list of other things to tax.......keep an eye out.


  1. Most 'packaged' and processed food is taxed here, and I think its a good thing... the only things (what our govt has classed as essentials) that are not taxed are -

    fruit and vegetables
    milk, tea, coffee, fruit and vegetable juices (with 90% minimum by volume of juice)
    breakfast cereals
    infant formula

  2. Hey, Brooke - yes we have a general "sales tax" on most items in this state too, including most ready-to-eat food. Produce and other fresh foods, milks and juice, and what I would consider an "ingredient" are tax free. All of this is taxed at the same rate. Apparently the proposal is to tax soda and artificial "juice" a teeny bit higher than it is now. Frankly, I'd be fine if they banned the stuff, but that's hardly practical.

    Sales tax varies by state, though, so there are some huge policy variances between different regions.



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