Obesity Tax

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December 29th, 2008

With consumers spending less and profits declining, government tax revenues are starting to decrease at a time when unemployment benefits and Medicare are getting more expensive. A lot of states are now faced with fixing huge budget deficits and are looking to more creative ideas on how to make up the shortfall. New York's Governor Paterson has proposed among other options, an "obesity tax".

This new tax would applied to all sugared beverages including non-diet fruit drinks that are less than 70% juice. Paterson believes that because soda is a cause of obesity, decreasing its consumption will lead to a healthier population. While this is probably true, is taxing us the right way to decrease consumption?

I say no. It's true that children who drink soda or other drinks high in sugar are much more likely to become obese. Children today eat more and exercise less which leads to health problems in kids obesity taxthat used to be reserved for adults. Type 2 diabetes used to be referred to as adult onset diabetes before children started getting it too. Should kids be drinking sodas at all?

Governor Paterson would probably say no and if he has any kids, he has the right to control what they drink. The government shouldn't be in the business of making health, nutrition and exercise decisions for us by manipulating taxes. Taxes should be the same across the board for similar products. Why should orange juice or milk be differently than a soda? Can the government really make food decisions for us better than we can?

While a small tax on sugary drinks doesn't seem like a big deal, it's a very slippery slope. When the government decides that we as citizens are too dumb to decide what to put into our bodies, we lose our freedom of choice. If Governor Paterson is worried about the budget, he should call on all New Yorkers to help, he shouldn't be punishing those who choose to eat or drink certain foods.

A tax reduces consumption and when everyone decides to give up soda for some other unhealthy choice, New York is going to be faced with another budget deficit. What food or activity will they decide to go after next? What do you think? Should taxes be used to adjust behaviors? Vote now in this week's health poll of the week.