Taxing away a soda habit

With vending machines dropping sugary drinks like autumn trees shed leaves and fast food joints around every corner, it’s easier than ever to get our hands on the inexpensive processed foods that are both the bane and boon of our nation. We’re a country that loves convenience, and many of us end up loving it to death. Of all the countries on this planet, the U.S. sustains the most obese people. Obesity is an epidemic here and is most commonly a self-inflicted disease.

Have you ever taken a deliberate break from eating refined sugar? We have become accustomed to ultra-sweet foods, so taking a break from these items and then trying them again would make most people cringe: High-sugar foods taste incredibly sweet to those without a tolerance for them. There are processed food items, sodas included, whose first ingredient after water is sugar or a sugar-like ingredient.

These sweeteners come in many different forms. In various processed foods, you can find high doses of high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, cane sugar (also called evaporated cane juice), molasses and concentrated or condensed fruit juices. There are also “low sugar” or “sugar-free” items available on the market, many of which contain highly processed and refined compounds that may hurt your health.

What if Washington proposed a tax on soda? Some may gasp, shaking their heads in disapproval. Some may be impartial, and others will support the idea. Each are responses to the fact that the U.S. is, collectively, quite addicted to sugar, and the fizzy bubbly provides an extra -special delivery of it.

Historically, the main goal of soda taxes are to promote health amongst all—particularly focusing on youth, who generally consume whatever is available to them in school or at home.

Heart disease and stroke are the nation’s leading killers, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website, both of which are correlated to obesity through other conditions that can be caused by obesity. These conditions include high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (fatty plaque buildup inside artery walls), high cholesterol and diabetes.

Though a tax on soda is not a direct solution to the problem each of us are facing in this country, it is a nudge in the right direction: promotion of health, not processed foods. The popularity and convenient price of unhealthy foods correlates with government subsidies on food products such as GMO soy, corn, and wheat, all of which are common ingredients or sources of derivatives that are included in many processed foods.

If people realize the true cost of the foods they eat, taking into consideration their own health as well as government subsidies, they might be more inclined to make a healthy choice.

On Nov 4, Berkeley, CA approved a 75 percent tax on soda and other sugar-sweetened drink products. In 2009, 33 U.S. states had a sales tax on soft drinks.
Will Seattle be next?