Monday, May 24, 2010

Pop Quiz Monday

Would love for you all to weigh in with your thoughts. Below my quiz is an email sent out by the Gov.  of NY


1. Do you agree or disagree with the Governor of New York? Why, Why Not?

2. If president, how would you personally combat childhood obesity in America? (readers in 38 other countries on this blog, I want to hear from you too!)

My Fellow New Yorkers:

Obesity is a public health crisis. When over half the adults in this State, and one out of every four New Yorkers under the age of 18, are overweight or obese, we must recognize that there is a tremendous problem. Obesity is associated with life threatening conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer, and the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages is a major contributor to obesity. These health problems and costs will only increase in the future, unless we take steps to help all New Yorkers adopt healthier lifestyles.

By implementing my modified sugar-sweetened beverage tax, we will gain an effective tool to combat obesity. This plan will increase the price differential between the high sugar-high calorie and low sugar-low calorie beverages and encourage consumers to make healthier choices. A one cent per ounce excise tax would be added to sugary soft-drinks, bottled coffee and tea drinks with added sugar, powders and other sugary beverages, but my revised and improved plan will also eliminate the sales tax for bottled water and low-calorie drinks that have 10 or fewer calories per 8 oz.

New Yorkers spend an estimated $7.6 billion annually to treat obesity related health care costs. This initiative will help lower those costs over time, and improve the health and quality of life for all New Yorkers. Now is the time for us to take bold actions, and I again urge the Legislature to help me encourage healthy eating by approving this new tax on sugar sweetened beverages.

For more information about the modified sugar sweetened beverage tax package, please click here. Also, please share your views on this issue on Straight Talk from the Taxpayer.


David A. Paterson

Governor of New York State


Vegan Epicurean said...

I see the rationale for the tax on soda but from a slightly different perspective. HFCS results in increased cholesterol and fatty liver, not to mention metabolic syndrome. While I don't normally advocate big government HFCS costs all of us money in increased health care costs. However if HFCS were more expensive it would stop being put in the food supply at its current level. It is frequently added to bread. Why?

The farm subsidies that artificially drive down the cost of meat, dairy, HFCS are contributing to the increase in the consumption of health damaging foods. Elimate the subsidies and the high cost of those goods will drive down consumption more than the tax in NY on soda.

Is that what you were looking for?


Terrence said...

Good points. I was hoping for a debate on the subject being a couple hundred people read this today. Not everyone is engaging as you Alicia.

Amanda said...

If Dr. Fuhrman is right that Americans have an addiction to sugar (which I think we do), it might make sense to compare the impact that the cigarette tax has had on smoking rates. How did a (much higher) tax impact the rates of that incredibly addictive behavior? The highest consumption of sugar in the nation is for those under the poverty line who are often the least likely to have health insurance. Many of the items that food stamps cover are highly processed and have a lot of added sugar and salt. I think it would make more sense to restrict these items from stamp use, thus driving people towards healthier, fresher foods.

Overall, I think it's a step in the right direction. Alicia, I think your point is valid. The margins on sugar products are incredibly high compared to other durable consumer products. If it were possible to have a big impact on that margin, it would make business sense for processed foods companies to back off adding them. Cigarette companies knew for years that nicotine was incredibly addictive and that, by adding it to their products, they were ensuring a steady flow of consumer interest. Want to bet there are internal studies citing the same effect with sugar?

Terrence said...

Thanks Amanda:

Certainly, if soda was taxed as high as cigarettes than it would probably be effective in lessoning the number of people consuming. Cigarette taxes in NY are astronomical and it has curbed the purchase of cigarettes, or made people buy from Indian Reservations, or even bootleggers. But a penny an ounce will probably not have much of an effect. Take it to $0.25 an ounce and it will! But at what cost to the economy?

And there are other elements at play here; for instance, why tax soda and not Twinkies? And with cigarettes, unlike soda (or Twinkies), there is no amount which is not harmful to your health. And being private companies which contribute millions to health and fitness initiatives (plus state revenue and employment), will the State of NY contribute even more to health and fitness initiatives? (In Albany, those taxes will be divided up and spent on whatever the Assembly wants). Finally, Coke, for instance, is a 100 year old company, who has controlled the major market share of soda in America for most of that century, yet, the serious problems of obesity are less than 20 years old, so how much is Coke really to blame?

Clearly, I tend towards being against the soda tax because it is not evenly distributed across all high sugar processed foods, and the taxes collected will not be 100% reinvested in promoting an active, healthy lifestyle. If the State said we will tax all soda $0.10 and ounce and every penny will fund mandatory physical education classes in every single school in the State, I think even Coke would be OK with that - for the greater good, as long as they are not continuously demonized by the State.

I also agree that government subsidies that support the proliferation of corn syrup is not doing us any favors, rather, it is harming us because it makes things like soda so inexpensive -- especially when we are not subsidizing farmers who grow fruits and vegetables that have no purpose (e.g. cornsyrup viz. corn) other than to nourish this nation.

I strongly believe that milk (sorry my vegan brothers & sisters - soy, rice, coconut cool too!) and OJ should cost the same as a soda, and a big mac should be no more than a plate of vegetables. However, this is the issue of economics, and entrepreneurial capitalism, and market driven factors that cannot be tampered with too much - but then again, that is an even bigger issue.

I still find the debate fascinating, and worth while, but maybe I am in the minority here.

In the end, the easiest solution is also the cheapest: "Put down that soda, get off the couch and go outside and play!"

Chalon said...

It drives me crazy that politicians think they are coming up with solutions to obesity by taxing people yet again. In Texas, where I live, the biggest problem as I see it is that you have to drive everywhere. People do not walk. You cannot walk to the store, the library, the bank, or anywhere for that matter! You must drive out of your neighborhood and onto highways or access roads that are too dangerous for bikes to get to any stores, etc. The new roads give no thought to bike lanes or paths. There are sidewalks in the neighborhoods, but people buy golf carts so that they won't have to walk there either!! No wonder Texas has some of the fattest cities! Walk or ride your bike to school? I think it must be against the law! We have a new mayor in San Antonio who is beginning to think about bike paths - I hope he is successful! We moved to Texas six years ago and this has been my chief complaint ever since - sorry if I ranted!

Another concern about taxing sugary sodas over low sugar/low calorie sodas is that it might encourage people to choose drinks made with chemical sweeteners that are also dangerous. Choosing aspartame or saccharine over sugar may not be the healthiest choice.

What do you think?

Terrence said...

I agree with you Chalon, people need to walk more -- besides being healthy it is actually neighborly! Kids need to ride their bike to school! ALso, there will always be a new sweetner to circumvent any sugar tax - that much is certain.

Finally, Texas has both the fattest and the slimmest cities!