Obesity is a concern in the US. Statistics are not good. It’s estimated that by the year 2025 as many as 75% of all Americans will be obese. This is a rather extreme prediction and nobody can really say.
We do know, however, that there are some very serious health risks associated with obesity and unless something is done to reverse the growing trend of Americans growing too fat, we could become a very sick nation.
Berkeley, California is a progressive city and is proud of its trend-setting history. Now, it’s hoping to start a new trend to fight back in the war on obesity. It has become the first U.S. city to pass a law taxing sugary drinks. More than three-quarters of voters Tuesday backed a 1-cent-an-ounce tax on soft drinks.
What a mistake!
Many applaud this forward-thinking, call to action because it’s time something is done to help citizens stay slim and healthy. This seems like a good first step. Seems, is the operative word here.
According to Harvard researchers in a 2013 study that increasing the price of a 20 oz. soda by 20 cents led to a 16% sales drop. I don’t dispute that there was a drop in sales. A drop in sales doesn’t mean a drop in obesity rates. It’s not that simple. In fact, it’s more of an assumption that sugary drinks are a leading cause of obesity rather than a proven, scientific fact.
One study estimates that a large tax on soda would reduce the average person’s daily calorie intake by a whopping—whopping—12 calories per day, or 1.25 pounds over a year. That’s about half of one percent of a 2,000-calorie diet.
That one-and-one-quarter pound that might be lost by cutting out sugary drinks only applies to those who’re overweight because from downing sugary drinks. It’s ludicrous to think even 50% of the obese population in the US got that way from drinking too much soda. The causes are far more diverse and complex that simple soda guzzling.
I recognize that as a nation we should be concerned about the health of our people. I don’t think that weight is the cause of sickness; I believe it’s a symptom and an early warning sign. The problem can start way before the weight gain is noticeable and in some cases, there won’t even be much or any weight gain. The sickness is a result of unhealthy behaviors or lifestyle choices.
Yes, and I know some would argue that drinking too much soda is an unhealthy behavior. I agree, that too much soda is an unhealthy lifestyle behavior. Too much of many things is unhealthy. It’s not the things that are unhealthy, it’s the too much. That leads me to my objection with a soda tax. Why should people who don’t drink too much soda have to pay a tax?
If we agree that the government should levy a tax on soda to protect our health, then what else needs to be taxed? Soda tax won’t be enough to make a difference so let’s pay the government to police our behaviors until we’ve cleaned up all the unhealthy habits!
New taxes aren’t the answer. It’s time to take personal responsibility rather than looking for one more task government isn’t capable of doing, nor in which should it get involved. I hope that we won’t see more cities and states following the city of Berkeley’s nannyish mistake.
I believe education and smarter urban and suburban planning will do more to slim down Americans than handing over more of our dollars in taxes to our local, state and federal governments!