Leaders in Sacramento are asking the voters to renew and double the sales tax known as Measure U. While the Mayor touts the plan as a win for the city, not everyone is convinced.
On January 10th, 2018, the American Journal of Public Health, a team of public health, nutrition, and policy researchers from New York University and Tufts University, published a paper to figure out how feasible it would be for the government to impose taxes on unhealthy foods. The researchers concluded that it’s definitely possible and they recommend putting a tax on junk food to encourage consumers to choose a healthier alternative. This tax doesn’t just make people pay more for junk food but rather it also discourages people from consuming them altogether.
The taxes derived from junk food would be invested in public health purposes, especially to help low-income citizens who may not have healthy food resources in their communities. The authors of this report were hopeful that this research could provide state and local governments with insights and frameworks of the public health benefits of taxing junk food. However, many people have noted that these taxes on junk food may need local support in order to bring awareness to the situation and to affect change.
Despite this feasible plan, many people doubt that the federal government will willingly support this due to the lack of political capital and the extensive lobbying that goes against it. A tax on junk food would negatively affect the food industry and the industry itself is known to be assertive when protecting their profits. Other than influential lobbying practices, the food industry was also known for promoting ‘industry-funded junk science’ that largely supported their position and interests.
“The food industry has a very strong lobbying component. They would join together and lobby against this,” said Jennifer Pomeranz, an Assistant Professor of Public Health Policy and Management at New York University. “Industry opposition to public health policies, in general, has been very successful.”
In 2015, Coca-Cola, stapled as “the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages”, promoted a science-based solution to solve obesity: a focus on exercise rather than worrying about the amount of what people eat or drink. Of course, health experts said that this message was misleading and also part of an effort by Coca-Cola to deflect criticism about the role of sugary drinks in contributing to obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
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.
For anyone who drinks soda or any sugary based beverages regularly may want to start reaching for water soon. New research suggests that drinking two or more sweetened drinks per day could be doubling your risk for diabetes. In this new study conducted Swedish researchers found that consuming two or more 6.07 oz. servings of sweetened drinks daily doubles the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This creates a big dilemma for many Americans because the average size drink is 12 ounces. Furthermore if you are consuming just one standard drink a day you have already doubled your risk unknowingly.
“Not all studies have been able to look at sugary and artificially beverages separately,” said Josefin Edwall Löfvenborg, a nutritionist at the Karolinksa Intitute in Sweden, “(but) it’s getting more and more established that soft drinks increase risk of type II diabetes.” (CNN)
So how are we going to change society’s consumption of sugary drinks? Soda companies have already started cutting sugar in their drinks, but just a few weeks ago Pepsi Co. just announced they will be finally turning against sugar. While the news may come to a surprise for such a prominent soda company; the reason why they opting for less sugary drinks is to turn around sales as soda consumption begins to decline. Since new studies are verifying the health risk behind the added sugar in soda. Society has been consuming less of the sugary beverages. Even though Americans consume 30% more sugar daily now than three decades ago, according to the Obesity Society, nutritional trends are increasingly focusing on the dangers of eating too much sugar. Pepsi hopes to diversify their offerings by 2025 and grow sales of drinks such as tea, coffee, bottled water, and downsizing bottles.
Soda companies are not the only companies trying to help eliminate this obesity trend. Local fast food restaurants have also opted to change the format of their menus and promotion. Recently, Burger King has decided to jump on board with other fast food chains by taking soda off their kids menu.
“Many kids today are active and busy today, and for a lot parents they don’t have time to always make sure their kids are making healthy choices.” Ann Taylor – Registered Dietician “Which means when kids are out and have easy access to soda for processed sugars it creates a dilemma to continue raise obesity rates.”
Fast- food chains are feeling the urgency from advocacy groups to do their part to help fight obesity. According to The Center for Science in the Public Interest says sugary drinks are a hefty contributor to kids packing on the extra pounds. Fast food chains are continuing to try to develop new ways to balance their nutritional menu to help lower this unhealthy trend.
The good news is not only can soda and fast food companies make changes but we all as community as well. When looking at the nation’s first “soda tax” on sugar-sweetened beverages, which went into effect in Berkeley, last year showed that it worked.
A local research student named Kristine Madsen at UC Berkley conducted a study that showed once the tax was put in place there was a significant decline. People in Berkeley reported a huge increase in their water consumption.
“Being a student on campus it was always hard to avoid unhealthy caffeine, so sometimes I would opt for a soda, Julia Surges 2016 UC Berkley Graduate “but when the tax was put into place I opted for coffee and water.”
Cutting sugar is in high demand right now for society, and thanks for advocacy groups and researchers soda are no longer the main source of revenue for these companies. This research may show that soda companies need to cut sugar from beverages to survive due to consumer demand, but consumers need to actually take control monitoring their daily sugar intake in order to a decline diabetes and obesity rates.
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.
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.”
California lawmakers Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, have put together legislation to impose a two-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks meaning that the prices for soda would increase.
The Olympics are over and the medals have been distributed. Old records have been shattered while new ones have been established. Dreams, aspirations, and life long goals have been met. And blood, sweat and tears have fallen. Family’s made proud, country’s made Proud. With the conclusion of the Olympics on August 12th 2012, the USA ranked #1 receiving a total 104 medals; 46 gold, 29 bronzes and 29 silver. During the Olymipcs, the spotlight was on many USA athletes, like swimmers Michel Phelps, Missy Franklin, Dana Vollmer, and Ryan Lochte, gymnast Gabby Douglas, and runner Allyson Felix.
Each medal earned by an athlete also came with prize money. For instance, for each gold medal there is a $25,000 cash prize, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze. For every medal and cash prize there is also a Medal tax and a Prize tax. The medal tax is $236 for gold $135 for silver and $2 for bronze while the prize tax is $8,750 for gold, $5,250 for silver, and $3,500 for bronze.
Now I understand that here in the United States of America we pay taxes in order to provide public services and whatnot, but I have a real hard time with accepting the fact the Internal Revenue Service by law requires that taxes should be imposed on individuals that not only represent our country but dedicate all of their time to win medals and title on our behalf. Take Gabby Douglas for example. She a 16 years old who had to give up her social life and free time to train for the Olympics and brought home 2 gold medals. Do they really deserve to be taxed? Not to mention Michael Phelps’ medals make him the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time.
Phelps has won 22 medals: 18 gold, two silver, and two bronzes. The 27-year-old U.S. swimmer retired after picking up six medals four gold and two silver at the 2012 London Olympics, and he bids the pool adieu having won a total of 71 medals, 57 of them gold at the three major international long-course competition. If you haven’t already got it yet by now the point I am trying to get at is lets tax the things that’s should be taxed but lets not bite the hand that feeds us. Pretty much meaning if someone’s representing us a country and making the US look good lets reward them and stead of taxing them.
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Until next time…