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Soda tax support from doctors

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.

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I don't see it as a bad thing that people stopped driving when gas hit $4/gallon. Getting off the teat of the Middle-East can only be a good thing as it forces us to be self-reliant. It's been this way in Europe for ages and they actually have useful public transportation, economical cars, etc.

As for taxing sugary beverages, I think it makes perfect sense. The goal of healthcare is to extend the number of quality, healthy years people can live. You can't dispute this fact, I don't care how you want to pay for it. Given that goal, wouldn't it make sense for us to encourage it for individuals economically? If they still want to get fat on soda, fine, but I don't want to pay for their triple bypass.

I think the same should go for fast food. It is obscenely cheap for the amount of calories you get, but it is also obscenely unhealthy for you. People are encouraged to eat this unhealthy food economically, why not discourage that behavior? Pay for it now through taxes, or pay for it later with insulin meds, bypass surgery, etc.


As with any tax on consumption, isn't this regressive? The poor seeing their soda cost rise. Do we really want the government dictating this? What's next, taxing by calories or fat content?

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