Governor David Paterson’s so-called “obesity tax,” a part of his $121 billion budget proposal, calls for a 15 percent tax on sugary non-diet sodas. Some people might wince at the prospect of having their Coca-Cola costing more; some might even go so far as to claim that the government is overstepping its bounds. This response is all too familiar &mash; from back when taxes were placed on tobacco.
When tobacco was first taxed, a similar response to the obesity tax emerged. Some people were against the tax, proclaiming that it was their right to consume tobacco. Health organizations, as well as ordinary people, were also for it. Now, it has become evident that increased prices do influence consumption. Research in the journal of Nicotine and Tobacco Research indicate that for every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes, overall consumption decreases by approximately three to five percent.
In a YouTube video, Dr. Richard Daines, the state health commissioner of New York, states that the health cost of obesity is around 6.1 billion dollars. Other sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), articles from WebMD.com, and Daily News, indicate the same amount and show that the bill ends up at Medicare and Medicaid. Daines also discusses some startling trends. In 1970, Americans consumed an average of five cans of soda and 10 glasses of milk every week. However, in 2008, Americans consumed an average of 11 cans of soda and six glasses of milk every week.
Just drinking three more cans of soda every week, you would consume 13 pounds of sugar in a year.
According to the CDC, 10 percent of the adult population in New York in 1985 were obese. In 2007, the percentage jumped to approximately 25 to 29 percent. The CDC attributes the obesity trend to a variety of factors, including consuming sugar-sweetened drinks due to the high calorie count in them. The numbers are startling by their own right. People, overly saturated by the media and advocacy groups, may just end up not caring. However, there is evidence that such tax would actually influence behavior &mash; just as the tobacco tax had.
In Daily News, they reported that the obesity tax would actually generate 404 million dollars in a year. They interviewed people and some respondents said that they would just buy less soda if the prices ever went up. An example of such a response was, “ ‘I don’t like to buy Diet Coke,’ said Amaury Garcia, 16, ... ‘I’ll just not buy any sodas if it goes up.’”
It is not in human nature to make changes in our lifestyles easily. If it were, all those weight loss companies would go out of business rather quickly. With that in mind, is it really such a bad thing to put a tax on one of the leading causes of obesity?
The opinions expressed in the Views section are solely those of the author.
Andy Rees: Motivation behind obesity tax isn't health.