If Sacramento were to pass a soda tax like some other cities have, would young people change their drinking habits? I spoke to some Sacramento High School students to see what they thought.
A common idea that has gained attention in places all over the world is a “soda tax”. This would be, in many cases, a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks. This tax has been being brought up by nutritionists and being fought back by soda production companies and some citizens. While the U.K. seems to have a handle on the idea of this tax, some places in the United States are having a rocky start getting one of their own.
Soda definitely has its costs, including being damaging to one’s health and leading to diabetes, and in the U.K. were the tax has been implemented, fewer people are buying soda. The tax on soda seems to be a good way of instituting good health practices, but not everyone agrees with taxing sugary beverages, as seen in Chicago, when the soda tax was rejected after a few months of being implemented.
“My opinion on taxing soda, I mean… it’s one of the cheapest drinks and it gives you a little bump into finishing the day,” says Charlie Mitchell, a student at American River College in Sacramento. “So taxing it would make it really difficult to like her a little something, because water is kind of more expensive… Not that I’m saying it’s not healthy and you should drink (sodas) as an alternative to healthy stuff, but it’s cheaper and college students are broke.”
At American River College, the cheapest place to get a soda is the cafe, which costs $1 for one can. The cheapest place to get water on campus is the vending machines, where it costs $1.75.
You may not even need to worry, considering the soda tax doesn’t seem to be very successful in California. Whenever the soda tax appears, it seems to be rejected in California. Other types of preventative measures can be taken, such as educating the public on how unhealthy soda is, and the possibility of having a warning label on every can of soda. Only time will tell if soda consumption will go down in the United States.
Sugars, spices, and everything nice, these are the ingredient for making the perfect little kids, but is it really? Some people might not think about it, but there’s sugar everywhere in our food. If you asked a scientist what sugar is, they might say it’s glucose or fructose and that it provides energy for all living things. If you ask an average person, they probably will say that’s it’s a sweet treat that should be taken in moderation. What a lot of people don’t know is exactly how much sugar is in their food.
When we asked a random high school student of how much sugar do they think is a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola, he said that he thought “[the Coke had around] ten plus grams.” Compared to when we asked of a University of Berkeley Student, Stanley Ou, the response was “[the Coke was around] sixty-seven grams”. The correct answer is sixty-five grams which is nearly the same amount of sugar in five Little Debbie Swiss Rolls. Even though both answers are wrong, it is clear who is closer to the correct response. There’s a chance that’s an average person would not be so educated on the subject of how much sugar is in their food or how it will affect their health.
One of the U.S. closest trading partners, the United Kingdom, now has plans to tax products with a certain sugar amount to combat obesity. It is estimated that around sixty-four percents of adults living in the UK are considered “overweight or obese”. That number is even higher in the U.S with sixty-eight percent. Do keep in mind that there are five times more Americans than Brits which makes that percentage carried more weight. So if the UK are taking steps to reduce the obesity rate, why isn’t America?
One problem with trying to reduce sugar in American food is the sugar lobbyists. Despite many published scientific studies in America of how sugar is linked to obesity, there’s seen to be nothing happening. Sugar lobbyists have argued that the effect is exaggerated and it would hurt the U.S economy if sugar were to be taxed and restrict anymore than they are right now. Whether whatever the case may be, the fact remains that American are gaining excess weight.
The American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, conducted a study in which they determined that children who follow the guidelines of seven key health factors reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and later heart complications.
- Abstaining from tobacco products
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Performing 60 minutes of moderate to severe cardiovascular exercise every day
- Eating a wholesome and nutritious diet
- Having a good cholesterol level
- Having a good blood sugar level
- Having a good blood glucose level
“Engaging in these ideal health behaviors early in life can have a tremendous benefit on maintaining ideal health throughout the lifespan,” said Julia Steinberger, Researcher at the University of Minnesota, in Circulation.
Studies from the journal found that a surprisingly high amount of children and teens failed to meet the standards for all or most of the seven key factors of healthy cardiovascular health.
The journal reveals a large discrepancy in the recommended amount of daily exercise also recorded, which is hardly complimented by the ninety-one percent of adolescents getting the majority of their daily calories from simple carbohydrates with little to no nutritional value, like processed foods and sugary beverages.
Virginia Tech University recently released a study finding that reducing one’s intake of sugary drinks by a factor of at least one a day provides numerous health benefits.
The detrimental calories not only increase one’s chances of weight gain, but also obesity and type two diabetes, both amounting to near epidemic numbers in America.
The California Soda Tax is just one example of community efforts to curb sugary drink consumption so as to prevent the mortal diseases associated with it.
Improve one’s diet can be the first step of Seven to reducing one’s risk of deadly diseases and improving children’s and adult’s health alike.
Last month, the city of Philadelphia took a huge step forward for a large U.S. city by passing health related legislation in the form of a soda tax. The city of Brotherly Love followed in the footsteps of the modestly-sized city of Berkeley, which back in November of 2015 passed Measure D, an initiative to implement a soda tax.
As diabetes has increased in the United States over the past 15 years, it is becoming more important to understand that besides healthy living habits by individuals, health related policies enacted by legislative bodies could be another stepping stone in finding solutions to the obesity epidemic. The amount of sugar contained in soda and other readily available drinks is alarming and many of these types of beverages tend to be cheaper than water, making people with a low socioeconomic status more likely to choose the more affordable product. Although such a move locally would probably be an uphill battle against “big soda” who shells out large amounts of money for lobbying, a soda tax could be beneficial to Sacramento and its residents.
The Ecology Center in Berkeley is a nonprofit organization that focuses on health and environmental related issues in urban areas. The organization’s executive director, Martin Bourque, was heavily involved in the Berkeley Soda Tax campaign. Bourque made it clear that fighting against big corporations might be tough, but that it is very possible with the right group of people.
“Our best advice is to build a community coalition as early as possible,” Bourque said. “The coalition needs to stick together, identify the opposition, and hold them responsible for the harm they are causing. Be sure that your coalition includes people from the demographics hardest hit by the diseases associated with sugary beverages. Their families have suffered the most, and their stories touch on our common humanity.”
Sugary beverages can lead not just to diabetes and obesity, but also high blood pressure, heart disease, and other serious, sometimes fatal health issues. Those who are against the tax, would rather consumers focus on other ways to prevent these preventable diseases and think that additional fees should take a backseat to other options.
This November, San Francisco will be the next large city to get a chance to vote on a soda tax with opposition groups digging in for a fight.
“At a time when there are more pressing issues to address in San Francisco, such as crime, cost of living and homelessness, there are higher priorities for local government than regulating our food and beverage choices,” said Joe Arellano, the spokesman for the No SF Grocery Tax. “Our elected leaders should be focused on the issues that matter most to San Francisco residents and businesses, instead of making it harder and more expensive for grocers and small businesses.”
While few would argue that crime, the cost of living, and homelessness are all not important to focus on with legislation, over one-third of the entire population in America is currently living with obesity, making the creation of policies to encourage healthier decisions a real necessity, even though not everybody agrees.
“A tax is the wrong approach to solving the obesity challenge,” says Arellano. “In fact, soda consumption has gone down in recent years, while the rate of obesity has increased. Obesity and diabetes are very complex diseases that can’t be solved by focusing on one food or beverage. Taxes don’t make people healthy, only diet and exercise can do that.”
Even though diet and exercise are crucial to living healthy, many people find that a healthier diet can be more difficult to maintain when it is less affordable, given that soda is a cheaper than many healthier options. While a tax alone may not be able to solve obesity and diabetes by itself, many believe that it is at least starting point. Plus, the tax money in Berkeley from revenues generated by their soda tax has gone to programs to help combat youth obesity and other similar efforts and Sacramento could use a tax in the same way.
“So far, the tax has generated $1.5 million,” Bourque said. “That has been disbursed to Berkeley Unified School District for its gardening and cooking programs, plus a new round of community grants for education focused on those most impacted by big soda marketing.”
In contradiction to the current obesity epidemic is the surprising but static increase of the consumption of water by Americans. According to an article on Quartz entitled Charted: US consumption of bottled water has finally caught up to soda the steady decrease of soda consumption is parallel to the steady increase of water consumption by Americans since 2001. Water consumption is predicted to soon surpass soda consumption by Americans.
“I drink more water than soda,” said Phoua Thao, an American teen. “I think this means America will be healthier,” continued Thao when informed about the increased water consumption.
“I hardly ever even drink soda,” said Veronika Gudimenko, another American teen. “I drink water and coffee, but never soda,” finished Gudimenko.
With teens already choosing water over soda, America’s youth seems to be on the right track to a living a healthier life than the many current adults who suffer from obesity, as they were the ones who were teens when soda consumption reached its peak of 54 gallons a year in 1998.
Due to soda causing obesity and other illnesses, Americans have been rejecting the sugary filed beverage. An article on Business Insider entitled The future of Coke and Pepsi depends on this unlikely beverage states that popular soda companies have recently witnessed a decline in the sale of their carbonated soda drinks. Thus the companies are now more dependent on the sale of their water products, which are Dasani for Coke and Aquafina for Pepsi, for financial success.
Within the context of this increase in water consumption combating widespread obesity an article on Nestle Waters entitled Obesity and drinking water states that those who drank water as a first source for hydration when dieting would experience weight loss and schoolchildren who did the same would stabilize their weight. Obesity rates according to an article entitled Liquid Candy states that soda is responsible for 10.3% of the calories consumed by overweight teenage boys, and 7.6% of the calories in other boys.
Considering these facts the increase water consumption by Americans can possibly create a slightly happier nation as being overweight tends to result in psychological consequences such as anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression. This is also due to modern culture, however, emphasizing slim, toned bodies, according to an article on MentalHelp.net entitled Pdychological Condequences Of Being Overweight, as obese or overweight people tend to be looked down upon.
However, one’s reason for choosing water over soda should not simply be motivated by the fact they may be more accepted by society, but because they truly desire to be healthy-as the same article states that those overweight tend to have less energy than their normal weight peers due to it taking them more effort to be active. As a result they tend to lead lifestyles with low-activity.
Such a lifestyle hinders one’s potential and ultimately develops an impaired society that eventually will no longer have any purpose.
At the same time water consumption is on the rise, a proposal for a soda tax was rejected due to lack of
support from members of the Assembly Health Committee. According to an article on Capital Public Radio entitled California Soda Tax Joins Line Of Failed Sugar Deterrents, opponents to the bill said taxes or warning labels are not likely to change the behavior and may adversely affect poor people. The profits from this bill would have been used to support obesity clinics, diabetes, and oral health. However, considering the increased water consumption, these issues Americans face may fade away with the better health decisions made by individuals on their own, instead of by the force of the government via economic laws. Essentially, people’s natural self – control may obliterate avoidable illnesses.
The increased water consumption in America is a good sign of a healthier future. Moreover, not only will individuals be healthy, but happy as well. Hopefully, this leads to future generations making healthier choices not only in the consumption of their beverages but in their food as well. Increased water consumption is a major step and contribution in the creation of a better future for America, but still is not the only step that should be made. Along with this individuals should eat better and be more active, as beverage intake is only one piece in a larger puzzle of bettering one’s health.
According to an L.A. Times article by Patrick McGreevy, California lawmakers wish to enforce what they refer to as a “healthy impact fee” of two cents per ounce on soda and other sugary beverages in an effort to fight a current diabetes epidemic in the state.
Another article on Techtimes.com by Rina Marie Doctor states that nearly half of Californian adults are prediabetic. Many factors contribute to the widespread diabetes, including lack of free time, sleep, access to safe play places, food deserts, and more. However, simply decreasing soda consumption could drastically decrease ones risk of obtaining obesity as a study according to a study on Harvard School of Public Health entitled Sugary Drinks and Obesity Fact Sheet found. That paper said that for each additional 12-ounce soda consumed per day, a person increased their risk for obtaining obesity by sixty percent.
The tax will hopefully force younger people to consume less unhealthy beverages as it won’t be as affordable. Hopefully, the tax can indirectly be a contribution in terms of increasing self esteem in children as well. A study by Eureka Alert entitled “Obesity Can Be Harmful To Your Child’s Mental Health” states that obese girls between the ages of thirteen and fourteen are four times more likely to experience low self esteem than non-obese girls. The same article also states that both obese boys and girls are more likely to suffer from loneliness, sadness, and nervousness.
“As a practicing child psychiatrist, I see a clear association between obesity and depression and anxiety disorders among children and teens,” says David Fassler, M.D., an APA Trustee and child and adolescent psychiatrist from the Eureka Alert entitled Obesity Can Be Harmful To Your Child’s Mental Health by the America Psychiatric Association.
In addition, the expected $2 billion raised from this “healthy impact fee”, as stated by the L.A. Times article by Patrick McGreevy, is intended to go towards counties, cities, community-based organizations and licensed clinics in creating and maintaining obesity and diabetes prevention programs.
With obesity and diabetes heavily affecting today’s youth in a negative way, there is absolutely no doubt that action must be taken to prevent the further spread of obesity and diabetes. However, is simply taxing soda the right way in going about this prevention? Healthier choices are already voiced by many but they are often not chosen because they are too expensive. Reducing the cost of healthier choices instead of increasing the cost of unhealthy choices could also be part of the answer to solve the epidemic on the horizon.