Is Soda Worse than Cigarettes?
- 2010/02/24 12:29:54
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Okay, okay, I'll admit it. Soda pop is definitely not the healthiest beverage one can imbibe. Various studies have linked the unfettered guzzling of the fizzy stuff to cirrhosis of the liver and degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s. (Sodium benzoate, a preservative found in most mainstream sodas, reportedly switches of important parts of DNA’s functioning parts and leads to a cornucopia or problems – ones generally associated with old age and/or alcoholism).
Last year, the fat, gassy cats of the soda world successfully squashed a federal tax on soft drinks, but various state legislators are moving toward taxing liquid candy, in a bid to balance their budgets and their constituents’ scales in the process.
California is the latest state to belly up to the soda fountain, with lawmakers touting another recent study linking soft drink consumption to obesity in children and adults – the current bugaboo of the health system, said to cost California $41 billion alone in medical expenses and work productivity issues.
Twelve other states have floated proposals and Colorado recently passed a bill; the city of Chicago already taxes soda and New York City may be headed down the same path.
The approach some are advocating to force the country to curb our consumption of the bubbling syrup is almost identical to the one taken to get America to kick the cigarette habit: by taxing consumers, putting warning labels on soda and launching major marketing campaigns to stymie consumption.
Big Soda is responding in kind, acting like tobacco companies of yore by claiming their products are healthy or at least not harmful, spending millions on lobbying efforts to prevent change and of course, marketing heavily to kids.
But how bad is soda exactly? It may be as habit forming as coffee (caffeine has been shown to be addictive, ditto sugar), but it certainly isn’t as malevolently addictive as cigs. And in moderation, soda really isn’t any worse than much of the other junk that we consume on an occasional basis – junk that certainly isn’t facing the same battalion of draconian taxes and fees.
On the other hand, it seems that we are a nation incapable of moderation. On average, we consume 50 gallons of soda a year – in fact, sugared beverages are America’s top source of calories. Hard to believe, but true. We guzzle 7% of our caloric intake in the form of soda and other sweet drinks – talk about empty calories.
If we did institute a soda tax, $0.03 per 12-ounces of soda, we would garner $51.6 billion a year.
I'm on the fence: is soda bad enough for our health to constitute such wide-ranging taxes, and if so: should we also be taxing fast food, potato chips, candy bars, chocolate? Where would we even begin to stop a fiscally based battle of the bulge? I'd love to hear your thoughts, below.
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