The Justification for a Soft Drink Tax
The Coca-Cola brand has built itself into a staple of American culture. This is a terrifying thought for public health advocates who see Coke and other soft drinks as being major culprits behind a growing national health crisis. Empirical evidence shows that over-consumption of soft drinks clearly causes harm to the individuals who consume them, however, the waging battle over soda legislation will not be won on the grounds of health alone. The argument that Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and other soft drink firms present is deeply rooted in American values and cannot easily be trumped. What they argue for is freedom of choice. In his book On Liberty, John Stuart Mill states, "over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign” (9). If an individual chooses that he wants to drink soda pop, he should be allowed a high degree of liberty to make that decision. Such is the foundation of a soft drink firm’s purported right to exist. If consumers demand it, Coca-Cola executives will get as red in the face as their soda cans stating that they play an innocent and vital role in fulfilling that demand. One method through which public health advocates wish to regulate soft drinks is in the implementation of a soda tax. Advocates for such a tax may argue that individuals who harm themselves by overindulging in soda should be limited in their consumption. Since supply and demand are sensitive to market conditions, a tax would undoubtedly lower the quantity of soda demanded, particularly in low-income families where obesity and diabetes are most common. Mill claims that “to tax stimulants for the sole purpose of making them more difficult to be obtained is a measure differing only in degree from their entire prohibition, and would be justifiable only if that were justifiable. Every increase of cost is a prohibition to those whose means do not come up to the augmented price; and to those who do, it is a penalty laid on them for...
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