Taxing That Sugary Vice
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I love soda. It’s my personal vice. I can’t drink caffeine, I don’t drink alcohol, and I don’t do any drugs, so for me, my vice is soda and good food (perhaps in too great of volume at times). Everyone has a vice; I would say that it’s part of what makes us human. However, like other vices, soda can carry negative consequences if one drinks it to excess. One search on the internet leads to many health articles that suggest that soda is terrible for you, and they are right. Soda consumption can lead to a higher risk of health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and other health issues (Harvard School of Public Health). Because of the fact that something readily available contributes to detrimental health effects makes some advocate for certain measures to be taken to prevent consumption. One of the ways that governments have taken steps is through beverage taxes.
According to the World Health Organization, the rate of obesity has tripled since 1975 (World Health Organization). As of 2016, 39% of the population is overweight, with one third of that being obese. With such high rates worldwide, it is no surprise that certain groups want to try to mitigate this issue through applying a tax to sugary drinks, a notorious obesity-causing drink, in order to keep people from wanting to buy the drink. While some countries, such as Colombia, are currently debating adding a drink tax, thirty countries have done so already, including Thailand, Mexico, Great Britain, and India (New York Times). While the United States has not enacted a nationwide tax, individual cities and counties such as Berkeley, California and Cook County, Illinois have placed taxes on soda (Time). The goal of these taxes were to decrease the consumption of soda, and the taxes seem to be working. In Mexico, the consumption of soda has decreased by an average of 7.6% percent over the past 2 years (The Guardian). In Berkeley, CA, sales of soda dropped about 10%, while sales of water went up 16% (Time). As these taxes have been implemented relatively recently, there has not been any reports of positive health benefits for either of these places, as it is just too early to tell. It is interesting that in Berkeley, while soda sales dropped, the sale of sodas in neighboring cities went up 7%. Some experts claim that this is due to the rise of price of soda in Berkeley, but other experts are skeptical that the sales of sugary drinks would go up that high just because one city decided to tax soda.
Obesity has been an important health crisis worldwide, and one of the proposed solutions has been to drive down the consumption of soda through a tax. Some countries are currently debating the merits of it, while other countries like Mexico and some select areas of the United States such as Berkeley, California have already enacted taxes. Statistics show that we have already seen dips in soda consumption in the aforementioned areas. However, I do worry a little about the implications of using taxes to manipulate our behavior. Sugar is a vice just like any other, and it can surely cause problems in excess, but I am unsure about how comfortable I feel about another larger entity trying to manipulate our behavior through our wallets. Across the United States, soda consumption is in decline, reaching a 31-year low this year, and the main cause of it has been due to a rise in health consciousness (USA Today). As well-intentioned as these financial pushes are, perhaps us humans are better off getting ourselves back on track without that kind of intervention? Time will only tell.