America is the land that invented mega-sized soda (which we drink at a world-leading pace). It’s also the land where 34.9% of residents are obese, and 9.3% have diabetes. Figuring out the corollary isn’t exactly rocket science.
These stats aren’t hidden, either — we’ve made fun of our soda-related excesses for years now. Which begs the question: Are we smart enough to save ourselves from our own bad habits? What about when the peddlers of those habits have entire non-profit arms that aid them in deceiving us?
The solution of the moment seems to be taxing soda to discourage people from buying it — because the drinks are just sugary, they’re also cheap. Mexico has had a 20% sugary drink tax for about two years now, and the results show promise. Mexicans are already buying and consuming at least 12% less sugar-sweetened beverages. Not only that, but sales of bottled water rose by 4% — which isn’t a totally balanced trade, but it’s definitely an indicator that some soda drinkers are making better choices. Considering that the country leads the world in childhood obesity, these are signs of progress worth celebrating.
Barry Popkin, who helped author an observational study on Mexico’s tax efforts, told Yahoo, “The point is proof of concept. It shows the tax works.” Popkin went on to say that if a nationwide soda tax were put into effect in the United States, it “would be very helpful to the U.S. diabetes, obesity, and chronic disease problem.”
Taxes like these aren’t much fun to talk about. They show distrust for the consumer — which seems anti-capitalist if not anti-American. Still, much like with cigarettes, consumer behavior seems to prove their necessity. The UK is currently looking very closely at a sugary drink tax of their own. The effort has been spearheaded by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and is rapidly gaining government support.
What are your thoughts? Is this part of the police state, or do we need to be protected from our own worst impulses?