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December 16, 2011 at 3:11 PMComments: 3 Faves: 0

Should the government tax sugary drinks?

From the FitChatter Blog Series

Welcome back to FitChatter! There's some controversy in the news this week, so let's get to it:

If some policymakers in Richmond, CA get their way during next November's elections, their residents are going to be shelling out big time to get a sugar buzz. On the ballot are two new measures: one would institute a one cent per ounce tax on soda (and fruit drinks containing less than 10% juice), and the other would direct the revenue from that tax to measures fighting childhood obesity, such as the building of sports fields.

Richmond is - how to put this delicately? - perhaps in more need of such measures than many other cities. In Contra Costa County, where Richmond is located, one in every three children is obese. Nearly 60 percent of all Richmond residents are overweight.

Proponents of these new measures, such as Tracey Rattray, point out that sugary drinks are "the single largest source of calories in a teen's diet." Councilman Jeff Ritterman states his support in no uncertain terms: "We will be sentencing these kids to lives of early illness and early death if we don't do something."

There's no doubt that something has to be done to combat childhood obesity - but is a tax really the answer?

For one thing, the building of sports fields probably isn't going to suddenly make kids wake up and go "Hey, I'm going to be the next David Beckham!" I hated sports growing up, and no amount of shiny new sports fields was going to change my mind. (It's also worth noting that a few-cent tax probably isn't enough to stop people from buying sugary drinks.)

Now, if the revenue from the tax was directed towards hiring a dietician to teach a class on nutrition at elementary and middle schools...then we might be onto something. But as it stands now, I'm a little skeptical that this tax comes from a sincere desire to combat obesity.

What do you think? Is this tax the weapon Richmond needs to fight childhood obesity, or just another example of government greed?


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  • It sounds like a legit try at improvement...just a terrible idea. You're not stopping people from buying their favorite drink by charging 16 more cents for it and you're not going to inspire people to be fit because they have a new place to run around. But it's not like I have a better plan! I guess if you want to shorten your life by sitting all day and eating ho ho's thats your business.

  • But for a nation buried in incredible debt... every single penny will help. Perhaps that $0.16 will hardly be felt by the individual, but it will be felt at the federal level. It is also interesting to consider the difference a similar tax added to cigarettes did to curb spending...

  • I like the idea of the dietitian class, and don't think it's unreasonable. Our three year old understands her daily need for fiber and protein. When picking a snack, or offered a snack by others, she'll ask if it's a good source of either.

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