Ever wonder why Americans tend to be overweight? Part of the reason is that between 1977 and 2002, the number of calories we consumed from sweetened beverages doubled.
The red line is sugar-sweetened beverages, with kids' intake on the left
and that of grownups (like me) on the right. A larger image is available
on page 2 of this report in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Such runaway sugar consumption needs to stop, say most physicians (and dentists). And one group of doctors in particular suggests that a good way to get us to put down that next Coke or Pepsi or any other sugar-sweetened drink is to tax the beverages.
In a paper published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the group of seven MDs and PhDs examines The Public Health and Economic Benefits of Taxing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages.
Sound familiar? That idea is being floated on Capitol Hill as a way to pay for health care reform. While it didn't make it into the Senate Finance Committee's first legislative draft, which coincidentally also was announced on Wednesday, you can be sure the topic will come up again as negotiations on ways to pay for health care are debated.
Good luck with that lawmakers.
As the New York Times reports today, there's a massive lobbying effort underway to defeat any possible federal fat tax.
Still, the tax has its supporters. The tax, say proponents, is a two-fer. It would not only raise money, but it could have significant positive health effects by prompting many of us to give up that extra Coke because of its higher price.
Of course, if such a tax is too successful on the health front, won't that just reduce it's efficacy on the revenue side? Remember how folks quit driving when gasoline hit $4 a gallon. If sodas costs more than consumers want to pay, then manufacturers won't get their money and governments won't get any taxes.
Michael Jacobson, executive director of the public advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the Times that if the tax was levied on the manufacturers, some might be able to spread the cola-tax cost across the rest of their products. That then would help keep sugary drink users from feeling the full impact and keep the tax money rolling in.
Ah yes, that delicate tax/price balancing act.
I repeat, good luck with that.