Thursday, October 15, 2009

Legislating Health

I was listening to NPR this morning, as per usual, and on the Diane Rehm Show, she was discussing the proposed tax on soda and sugary drinks that would allegedly drive down consumption and provide revenue for the health care overhaul. The tax could be somewhere around a penny per ounce. So, a 20 oz Coke from the vending machine would be an extra 20 cents or so. It reminded me of a commercial I saw recently on the same topic where a "mother" bemoans the fact that in this economy even a few pennies add up to strains on their budget. The commercial was paid for by a coalition that, among others, included soft drink companies.

I guess you can figure out where I come down on this issue...I'm all for the tax. In fact, I think it should extend to candy, chips, and other non-essential foods. If the government can tax the heck out of cigarettes under the assumption that it will deter smoking, which contributes to disease, why not tax junk food in a similar manner in hopes it will steer some people toward healthier food choices? A Coke a day may not kill you as quickly as a cigarette a day, but it will eventually affect you.

And, the argument that it's going to put a strain on the working American's budget...Uhmmmm, have you considered removing soda from your budget? Tap water is extremely cheap. The problem of unhealthy food being cheaper than healthy food is an entirely different (very serious) issue. As is the absence of grocery stores in certain urban areas.

I realize a tax won't deter everyone. No amount of taxing or even educational campaigns are going to keep the majority of people from doing exactly what they want to do, no matter how bad it is for them. In fact, if the tax goes into effect, it probably wouldn't stop me from having the occasional Diet Coke. But, as long as I'm going to make a less than healthy choice, someone else might as well in the millions of people in our wealthy nation who can't get affordable health care.

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