Is soda the new tobacco? That is what I was wondering after I read Mark Bittman’s op-ed piece (Bad Food? Tax It) in yesterday’s New York Times. In his article (which I tweeted several times) Bittman suggested taxing soda and subsidizing vegetables. Not such a bad idea, right?
Wait a minute. There will be loads of people who vehemently object to Bittman’s proposed soda tax. Why? They will claim that we are creating a nanny state. They will argue that the process of determining which foods are healthy and which are not is too complicated and subjective. Bittman however, has sound comebacks for each argument that the critics throw his way.
Bittman’s points are compelling, here are just a couple:
- because of subsidies to industrial agriculture fruit is more expensive than Froot Loops
- one-third of Americans either have diabetes or are pre-diabetic
- a sane diet could save billions of dollars in health care costs
Bittman has plenty of solutions for the spiraling healthcare costs associated with the Standard American Diet (SAD). He talks about spending revenues from a soda tax on local gyms and to pollinate food deserts. He also notes that for the first time in our history, “lifestyle” (preventable) diseases, will kill more people than communicable ones.”
Finally, Bittman drives his point home when discussing the historic ramifications of the implementation of the tobacco tax, noting that since its institution just over three decades ago, smoking has declined by more than half.
What are your thoughts on the soda tax? Leave a comment and let’s discuss this controversial issue.
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In Norway, we do have sugar taxes. Not just on sodas, but everything with a lot of suger has extra taxes. We also have very high alcohol taxes. And – it works! People need to think twice before buying a chocolate bar, it’s less expensive to buy a banana and an apple. We also have less alcoholics in Norway (and Sweden), than in our neighboring countries like Finland and Denmark who have very cheap and always available alcohol. We also have a grocery store who has cut away the taxes on fruit and vegetables to make the state see that we shouldn’t have taxes on those products.
On the other hand, Norwegians are very positive, or at least have acceptance, towards state interference on this level. We’re a social democracy (misunderstood by many Americans to be socialism or even communism) and I think all Norwegians are very satisfied with this system. We pay high taxes, sure, but we get free medical care and a lot of security. Even if we loose our jobs, we receive enough money to live a normal life. I think we agree that as long as the state pays our medical bills, they’re allowed to make it harder for us to make our self sick.
I think the soda taxes is a great idea, but I know that a lot of Americans will see this as a interference on their freedom.
Why not consider restricting foods that can be purchased with food stamps. No soda, no chips, no cake. Limited amounts of crackers, cookies. They can set specifics just like they do with the WIC program. Stop the soda and chips purchased with our tax dollars via food stamps. Let the government first get its house in order and work with the programs they fund. When that works then let’s have a discussion in the open. I am not for government telling me what to eat. I do think that ag subsidies should be distributed differently. Why does corn recieve such a large portion? Yes subsidize veggies and fruits. Open up the water in California. We need some common sense in government.
Lisa Fitzgerald says
I just read that soda is the number one source of calories for Americans. That is messed up. Tax it.
The problem isn’t the pop. It is the funding of our agriculture system which is paying lots of money to be agrabusinesses who are growing the ingredients which go into products like soda pop. Let’s stop funding these food corps and start supporting farmers who are growing real food so that the real food isn’t so expensive.
Wrong. Funding to farmers etc is not the only problem per se. The problem is the parents who willingly buy the soda pop, the chips, the multitude of junk food that’s available as an easy way out. No child needs to drink soda pop or eat bags of chips. It is not a crime if they don’t have access to them. If the child is brought up not having these so called “food” items in the home, the child will never miss them.
Healthy foods, veggies and fruits, can always be found at reasonable prices when in season. If the tomatoes or fresh veggies are more costly because of being out of season, dump that fattening kraft dinner, the boxed pizza, or the canned whatever that’s in the grocery cart or basket, and choose the healthy foods. Join a food Co-Op if there’s one in your area. A few hours of volunter work each week in exchange for lower prices.
Maybe I’m old school, but I’ve always cooked meals or baked from scratch, even working a full time job.
Too many parents nowadays only want to deal with convenience foods, the frozen packaged ready to eat after a nuke in the micro, or a minute in the toaster, or dumped from a salad bag into a bowl. That kind of shopping (which in itself is expensive) & eating, is the norm for a good majority of families today, & that’s where the main problem lies.
SunnyB @ andloveittoo says
My husband often notes how much more expensive it is for us to eat healthy foods than it is for us to eat junk. Subsidization to farmers has given government the opportunity to control and change the eating habits of the American public dramatically, and not for the better.
As it is with tobacco products, it will take more than taxation to catapult the masses towards healthy eating habits. Taxation coupled with education is a more viable response. Should a portion of the taxes collected be put into healthy eating programs, improving school lunch programs, etc, then yes, I see this as a viable and worthwhile opportunity.
Additionally, subsidization for farming needs to come to an end…in the very least needs to be cut. Too many farmers are being directed to stop growing fruits and vegetables all together, in effort to control food prices and encourage import/export of certain foods as a means of improving our relations with foreign countries. Too many farmers are growing foods they would not normally prefer to produce, and are not able to rotate crops according to the needs of their community or for the improvement of their soil.
You and I know that locally grown, non-gmo/organic fruits and vegetables are truly what is best for our families and thereby, our community. It is only through educated decision making that we will be able to get the rest of the nation onboard with this reality (government included).
Government intervention proved to be a catalyst to the current state of affairs; do I believe government intervention will bring the current state of affairs to an end? Probably not. But increasing the price of junk foods so they are more costly than (in the very least, an equivalent expense to) all-natural, unprocessed whole foods certainly could not hurt.
I haven’t read every remark, so I may be repeating someone.
Vermont has been trying to pass a “soda tax” for the past 2 years. My soda consumption is just about zero, so it would not impact what I spend. As with cigarettes, I just don’t think it will keep those who are addicted to sugary drinks from buying them. I think education is the key, and sadly that education needs to start at home which is most likely where the root of the problem is anyway. I do think though, that No soft drink machines in schools is a very good idea.
I wrote my thoughts on my own blog. I’m all for it.
Elizabeth Gail Wieda says
No tax on soda, please, unless— the sugar and aspartame are replaced with stevia. Soda would not be as unhealthy as it is now if only the companies would remove the poison and replace with healthy sweeteners.
We would not mind the tax if it were on a healthier drink.
Unfortunately, it’s a nibbled to death by a duck situation. Or the frog in the water. It’s not just this tax. It’s all the taxes, all the subsidies, all the policies. If we looked at them all at once it would shock most of us.
Whether it’s fad diets (and diet books), or the latest conflicting studies, or whatever, the fact is we all have different views and preferences about food. Government policies, taxes, subsidies, etc. definitely have an impact and make some things cheaper, others more expensive. But it’s not necessarily good for anyone and certainly not good for everyone.
Education is the key. As is personal responsibility.
I’m kind of amazed that the idea of increasing the price of soda by a few cents=THE GOVERNMENT IS IN MY KITCHEN TELLING ME WHAT TO EAT!!!
Seriously, 3 cents a liter is going to give the government unmitigated power over our food choices?
You’d rather the makers of soda pop and crap foods be in your kitchen telling you what to eat instead? Give your head a shake. Coke Pepsi, Kraft foods, Kelloggs, Hellmans, all of them, will do whatever to convince you the parent, that their products are safe and healthy for your family.
Hate your government’s FDA all you want, but without them, without the food inspectors, the agriculural inspectors, the food scientists etc etc, you’d never know whats in that piece of food you’re about to eat, nor the liquid you’re about to drink, nor would you know about any imported food/products recalls.
If you stop and think, your goverment is probably not too concerned about what foods you eat, it’s the amount of the foods the average American,(children especially) are eating, that’s more concerning.
Do the math. The US is ranked #1 as having the highest rate of obesity in the world. A small tax on soda pop is just a drop in a very deep bucket at trying to improve that figure.