Should We or Shouldn’t We? The debate on Taxing Liquid Sugar

by Gavan on September 9, 2009

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Coke, soda pop, fizzy drinks, soft drinks, colas, energy drinks—are they really anything more than just “liquid sugar”? Do you know how much sugar is lurking in your soft drink? Most people don’t but believe it or not, a 12-ounce can has 150 calories and about 10 teaspoons of sugar, mostly as high-fructose corn syrup. If you drink just one soft drink a day, studies show that can lead to a weight gain of 15 pounds in one year, in addition to raising your cholesterol. Keep in mind the term soft drink encompasses sodas along with other sugar-sweetened beverages such as non-carbonated sports drinks, fruit drinks, lemonade and iced tea. Back in January Coke was sued for deceptive and unsubstantiated claims via a class action lawsuit because The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has decided that Coca-Cola’s line of VitaminWater drinks is not really vitaminy enough nor is it watery enough. Proof that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or a bottle by its label).

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One shot glass = 1.5 oz. One sugar cube = 4 g. (Photo by

Think you’re doing your body good by choosing the diet varieties? True, they don’t have 150 cals in every can but they do contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame that might cause an occasional cancer, according to some studies. What ever happened to good old-fashioned milk? When I was growing up we guzzled milk when we were thirsty and soft drinks were a treat. It seems those days are over. Consumption of these beverages in the States has shown an increase by 135% between 1977 and 2001. As I mentioned in my article, ‘An Intelligent Diet’ in June’s issue of Life and Fitness Magazine, 75% of our calories are coming from sweetened beverages like sodas, sweetened teas, flavored coffees and juices, making them likely culprits in unintentional weight gain. It’s no wonder 34% of American adults are obese. So if those are the adults stats, what about the young ones? Roughly 32% of children aged 2-19 are overweight or obese. Because of that, some experts are projecting the lifespan of this current generation will be shorter than that of their parents. Time to wake up people!

Think about what is available at your child’s school: access to soft drinks. (Remember what that term encompasses!) Not only do we need to get out of the habit of having soft drinks in the home, we desperately need to get them out of schools. There’s been a campaign waged over here to encourage our legislators and health officials to support soft drink taxes and going even further, a flat per-ounce (or per-teaspoon-of-sugar) tax. For example, charging 7 cents per 12 oz. serving would raise about $10 billion per year. The idea of raising such money is to not only help states get out of debt, but to dedicate money to promote health & install millions of water fountains across the county.

“I actually think it’s an idea that we should be exploring,” President Obama said in an interview with Men’s Health magazine that goes on sale next week. “There’s no doubt that our kids drink way too much soda.” Obama said he understands fears that some would have about “Big Brother telling them what to eat or drink.” Still, he said, any steps that reduce soda consumption would have “a big impact on people’s health in this country.”

The key here is to ensure the money generated from this tax actually goes towards fighting childhood obesity as designed.

I’m betting that slapping such a tax on these sugar water drinks will slow down the sales, which have already declined, but what do you think? Would you pay 5 quid for a can of Coke such as my friend, Doug, suggests the cost will be? (Read his post–it’s pretty clever.)  The ultimate goal is to raise awareness to help fight our obesity epidemic so if this helps to raise awareness I’m all for it!
UPDATE: Existing Soft Drink Taxes 2-3-11

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

jacqui September 10, 2009 at 6:56 am

Sounds good in principal but history hasn’t proven this tax works. Take tobacco tax in Uk as an example. Also where do you stop. Lets face it everything in moderation works best. Education, education education is key here. Let’s take some resposibility for our own actions. We have all the facts at our fingertips we are bombarded with health facts & figures.

See my blog on New York trip. “bit of a rant” Think we all want to be lead by the hand and when things go wrong we look for someone to blame. Commonn sense is undervalued.

pjnoir September 27, 2009 at 1:42 pm

yes, triple the tax sugar and HFCS drinks are killing the world

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