And on to soda tax. VERY interesting idea. I think I may like it.
Kelly Brownell, professor of psychology and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, argues that in order to produce a real change, there needs to be a shift in the economic balance between healthful and unhealthful foods and to curtail the all-pervasive marketing of junk food. This would include a tax on soda, he states. Brownell is a go-to guy on topics surrounding the obesity debate and the media .
Brownell is also co-author of the book entitled, “Food Fight: The Inside Story of the Food Industry, America’s Obesity Crisis, and What We Can Do About It” (Note to self: order this on
amazon.com ASAP!). His suggestion of taxing sugar and high-fructose corn syrup beverages surfaced in April when it was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. While this idea isn’t a new one to Brownell, he claims it’s now feasible due to the economic recession in America .
The details? Brownell proposes an 18% tax on soda. He states that with such a tax, fewer Americans will consume soda, and weight loss nationwide can be expected. Starting at the state-level, Brownell forecasts involvement on a federal level, much the same way as tobacco taxes .
The tax money can then be used to fund obesity-prevention programs and subsidize the farming of healthful fruits and vegetables, just as the government currently subsidizes corn that’s processed into high-fructose corn syrup .
Does anyone care about the obesity epidemic enough to DO anything about it? Appears so. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) held a three-day “Weight of the Nation” conference in DC last month. The conference brought together academics, scientists, physicians, and public health officials from all over the world to discuss the current obesity epidemic in America. Specifically, research presented at the conference estimated the 2008 cost of treating obesity-related ailments in the US at $147 billion .
Brownell is quoted in saying :
“Until healthful foods routinely cost less than unhealthful ones, getting people — especially low-income people — to eat them will remain a challenge.” — I agree.
“…Unless limits are placed on the marketing of unhealthful foods, the whole anti-obesity effort hardly stand a chance.” — Probably so.
“The public-health approach to fighting obesity must shift from treatment of those who are already fat to preventing others — especially kids — from getting that way.” — Interesting. Worth a shot, anyways.
The columnist, LaRue Huget, counters with the argument that diet and weight should be a matter of personal responsibility, not government concern . While I wish I could agree, I don’t. Just because something ought to be, certainly doesn’t mean it’s a reality. And certainly this is true for leading a healthful lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight. If obesity weren’t an epidemic, I could possibly wish on a lucky star that Medicare would be in existence in 45 years’ time. Ha! Brownell goes on to say, “When people move to the U.S., they gain weight. Have they become less responsible? We have more obesity this year than last. Are we all less responsible? .” Hmm. Wise man, that Brownell, don’t ya think?
Regina Benjamin, a highly accomplished and well-regarded physician (who happens to be overweight) has been nominated for surgeon general. What does this message send? Brownell explains that Benjamin is an “excellent role model because she does struggle with her weight. Her nomination underscores that there are better ways to judge a person than by how much she weighs.” Great. But, how much is too much? At what point does a weight “struggle” turn into a weight “problem”??
. LaRue Huget, Jennifer. Can We Fight Obesity by Slapping a Heavy Tax on Soda? The Washington Post. August 11, 2009.