Creation of Nanny States or Responsible Regulation?
According to the Wall Street Journal, leaders are considering a national tax of 1 cent per ounce of sweetened drinks to control our country’s obesity epidemic. This would generate 14.0 billion dollars the first year alone, used to help finance proposed health care reform as well as fund programs to prevent obesity.
What’s next? Will our government propose a tax for holding our hands to get us across the street safely? Or is this type of regulation necessary to control the rising costs of healthcare which comes out of each of our pockets?
The United States spends 147 billion dollars, 9 percent of healthcare expenditures, on medical costs associated with overweight and obesity according to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. A group of prominent researchers, in the Sept. 17th issue, explored the public health and economic benefits of taxing sugary soft drinks. The authors believe that such a tax would discourage people from buying these drinks, helping Americans lose weight and reduce their health risks.
“There are certain products which make a strong contribution to the obesity epidemic, while conversely there is no plausible public health benefit,” said Dr. David Ludwig, senior author of the paper. “None of us are arguing that sugar-sweetened beverages should be banned, but the government needs to raise revenues where we have a huge national deficit… We have critical health legislature pending and the requirement to do so without further increasing the deficit.”
Ludwig is an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and is also director of the Optimal Weight for Life Program at Children’s Hospital in Boston. According to Vitals.com, Dr. David Ludwig received his medical degree at Stanford University and completed his training in Pediatric Endocrinology at Children’s Hospital.
Many studies have linked drinking beverages with sucrose, high fructose corn syrup or fruit juice concentrate to obesity, diabetes and heart disease as well as tooth decay. One such study found that when 100 high school students eliminated such drinks it led to a significant weight loss. Roughly half of teenage boys drink more than six packs of soft drinks every week according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine article, a 10 percent increase in the price of sugary beverages would lead to a 7.8 percent drop of sales. Needless to say, the beverage industry opposes a soda tax and disputes the connection between consumption of sweetened drinks and obesity. They feel that demonizing any one particular food or beverage is the wrong approach for such a complex problem.
President Obama disagrees. He feels that every study that’s been done with obesity shows a high correlation between soda consumption and obesity. He believes taxing sugary soft drinks is worth exploring, although realizes that it might feed fears about Big Brother’s control over our country.
“There are very few comprehensive interventions, let alone dietary factors, whose modification have led to changes in body weight,” argues Ludwig. “Identifying a single factor is quite remarkable.”