Soda Tax Is Not the Solution
There has been a growing concern towards the issue of obesity and efforts were made by governmental and non-governmental organizations to tackle this health problem. New York City’s proposal for labeling regulations for the food and beverage industry marked the start of government intervention into the market to fight obesity, and many states soon followed suit (Brownell et al., 2012, p. 384). A recent tax proposal on sugary beverages has caused uproar among the beverage industry because this tax, unlike the previous labeling regulations, is targeted directly towards the beverage industry. It is difficult to implement a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages because some people oppose it on the grounds of how much of a paternal role the government should play in the people’s lives. Presently, U.S. state governments are debating whether the 1% per once tax on soda and other sugary beverages can effectively combat obesity. It would be a serious mistake to impose a tax on sugar-sweetened beverage because sugar-sweetened beverage is not the main cause of obesity, the tax wrongly attributes a large portion of responsibility of obesity to the consumers, and the tax cannot ensure a decline in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
Before taxing the sugar-sweetened beverages, there is a need to establish a direct link between sugar consumption and obesity. It is important to decide whether decreasing sugar consumption will decrease the obesity rate. According to Dr. Bray from Harvard Medical School, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has about 40% of market share in caloric sweeteners used in the United States (as cited in Bocarsly et al., 2010, p. 101). Due to HFCS’s large market share, any effects of HFCS will have a significant impact on the consumers. Bocarsly et al. (2010) conducted an experiment on the effects of consuming HFCS on male and female rats for 6 to 7 months, and the results indicate abnormal weight gain of the rats (p. 105). While this experiment justifies the effects of a strict HFCS diet on animals, but it did not take the diet proportions into account. While attempting to reduce sugar consumption by imposing tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, the beverage industry will find an alternative way to compensate for the reduced sugar level in order to market their products to the public. For instance, a member of the Center of Science in the Public Interest, Wootan, says McDonalds “has a pretty good sugar standard but no sodium standard, so that lets in more salty burgers and fries” (cited in Mantel, 2010, p. 806). Therefore, it is unjust to tax sugar-sweetened beverages but not on other unhealthy food. Besides that, adolescents and adults are capable of making responsible decision regarding their diet and they do not need any legislation such as a beverage tax to help them do so. Brownell et al. (2010) shows a gradual decline in the number of cases of driving without seat belt, driving under alcohol influence, riding with a drunk driver, and practicing unsafe sex (p. 381). These incidents can be used as in indicator of the level of personal responsibility the adolescents possess, and the decline of such cases implies that the adolescents are getting more responsible. Brownell et al. (2010) respects the individuals’ right to their personal health and too recognize the importance of government intervention to solve the problem (p. 382). Instead of guiding the citizens, a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is a way of dictating how the consumers should behave. Rather than attempting to implement taxes, Brownell et al. (2010) suggests that the government to be more of a facilitator than a parental figure by improving the accessibility of healthy food (p. 383). This action corresponds to the “optimal defaults” used by countries such as Austria and France to its citizens to be organ donors, and it showed promising results in influencing personal decision towards the intended outcome (Brownell et...
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