Speak Up

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sugary Drink Tax?

NY Governor Paterson and NYC Mayor Bloomberg are supporting a tax on soda and other sugary drinks. The proposal is support by major groups and unions and also being fought by many others.

Let's start with the facts:

How much will the tax be? a penny-per-ounce excise tax
-12 cents per can
-$1.44 per 12 pack

Which products will be taxed? non-diet sodas and other drinks containing large amounts of added sugar,

What's the point? an economic incentive for children, adolescents and adults to reduce consumption of sugared beverages and choose healthier, lower-calorie alternatives such as water, low-fat milk, and diet soda

What's the OTHER point? $450 million in revenue from the tax this year ($1 billion over a full fiscal year) will be dedicated to preventing deeper cuts to health care programs at a time when the state must close an $8.2 billion deficit.

I got all of this info from the NY State website. Support of the proposal also comes from The Alliance for a Healthier NY.

New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes has put together a petition with over 13,500 signatures to date.

Why they're upset:
-this tax hurts the people who can least afford it-the middle and lower classes
- 6,000 union jobs in the beverage industry will be lost
(taken from their website)

How do I feel about the tax? Well-to be honest I'm not sure. I don't drink sugar soda, but I do buy juices and really it doesn't matter about me because it's not a tax on Hilary's grocery bill only. As a citizen I have the option to make a choice about things that affect all the citizens around me.

It doesn't impress me that supporting the proposal are major groups and unions. As a member of the teacher's union I've been clumped into a group that supports certain politicians and proposals that I never supported as an individual.

I am a huge believer that childhood obesity is a major problem in the US and we are only doing about 5% of what should actually be done. Will a tax on sugary drinks stop people from buying them? Some yes, but enough to make a difference? I doubt it. I see the way that parents of my students and the students spend their money in the inner city here in New Jersey. Will a 12 cent increase on soda or those gross sugar chubs stop teenagers at the corner store and sway them toward a bottle of water? Not in my experience.

Think about adults. When we go out to dinner, the cheapest beverage to order is a glass of tap water. That certainly doesn't stop us from ordering a soda (diet or not) that's been marked up way too much or worse than that a &15 glass of wine that the restaurant spend for two bottles of the same drink.

Is it the government's job to stop obesity in this way? Should they be dictating what we buy based on taxes? I do think the government has a tremendous amount of power that potentially (key word) can be used to help us. Consider what happened after smoking was banned from most bars and restaurants around the country. To me, it's become more taboo and less cool for people to smoke. So how can we make poor eating habits less cool? If the government can do that-we might be set.

Food is Love,


Alyssa said...

I would be a lot more impressed with this proposal if the extra revenue were going towards incentives for organic producers/growers. The extra twelve cents on a $1.25 bottle of soda is still nothing compared to the $5 carton of organic milk, or the $4 fresh juice.

I know, I know - they're just scrounging for money under the guise of making people healthier, but if they really wanted to get behind the obesity issue, they would be starting at the top (or even the middle), rather than pecking at little things on the consumer end. We can teach healthy eating practices until we're blue in the face, but unless we can find a way to make good food available (read: affordable) to EVERYONE, it's going to be tough to make a dent in the problem. Unfortunately, many people, particularly the people affected most, cannot afford to vote with their wallets.

Hilary Battes said...

I agree Alyssa. How can we make better food and drink available to more people? After watching Food Inc Inwas inspired to make better choices at the grocery store- buy local foods, milk without hormones, and cut out processed foods. That wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. There is a much higher cost to eating healthy. So far I've cut back on the frozen processed foods and tried to fill my cart with more produce. I also only buy hormone antibiotic free milk. But I can't change everything all at once baby steps.

Oh, and can you believe March is Frozen Food Month?! Why!!!??

Kika said...

My DH and I were unemployed for awhile and received Food Stamps. I was surprised to see people with carts full of junk, paying with their EBT cards (Food Satmps), and almost no produce in sight.

If they want to eat that with ut their own $, that's they're problem. But they should block unhealthy foods from being avail. to purchase with Food Stamps.

I did hear of a proposal in FL (where I live) to stop allowing sodas and candy to be purchased with Food Stamps. Let's hope...

Hilary Battes said...

The sad thing about food stamps and shopping in general is that highly processed, high sugar foods are always cheaper than fresh produce and local meats. I can't blame people for wanting for bang for their buck when they are on a budget.