A New York State court recently rejected Michael Bloomberg’s ‘soda ban’ – a limit on the size of sugary drinks in New York City. This ban has been widely mocked in the media, but Bloomberg has announced that an appeal will be mounted, and the debate over banning or taxing sugary drinks and other ‘unhealthy’ products has expanded across America. Opponents of the New York City ban, and even the New York State judge himself, have called the proposals ‘paternalistic’ and ‘capricious’. But there is at least one reason why the taxation (if not an outright ban) of sugary drinks is warranted: to defray any resulting healthcare costs.
It is now widely accepted that ongoing consumption of excess sugar has a negative impact on health – the least of which are increased rates of obesity, elevated blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease (etc.). Furthermore – and this applies to sugary drinks in particular – ongoing consumption of excess sugar is not a dietary necessity – most people simply don’t exercise enough or go long enough without food to require quick shots of sugar. But Americans especially do not have an excuse for over consuming sugar. Thanks to the internet, America’s education system, and the tireless campaigning of the Government and NGO’s (not to mention Michelle Obama), there simply is no excuse for Americans not to know the pitfalls of excess sugar consumption. The information is all around them. And yes, America is a net importer of food, but it also wastes a hell of a lot of good food and unlike many countries, the water is safe to drink. Unlike in many countries, in America there are alternatives to glutinous sugar consumption.
What all this boils down to is that Americans have the knowledge of the ill effects of ongoing consumption of excess guar, and largely have the capacity to avoid the sugar in the first place. However, according to a fact sheet published by the Harvard University School of Public Health, the consumption of sugary drinks is actually increasing in America. According to a Nielsen study, the percentage of daily calories provided by sugary drinks has risen from 4% in the 1970s to 9% in 2001. Another study found that half of Americans will drink a sugary drink on any given day. And a recent study by the American Heart Associated found that 25,000 American’s died in 2010 from consuming large amounts of sugary drinks. All of this will have a drastic impact on health down the line, and, as Americans enjoy a base level of socialized healthcare once age and means criteria have been fulfilled, the cost will be borne by the society at large.
In 2008 more than 45 million people were covered by Medicare in the United States, and this number is set to rise dramatically. Add to this how much Medicare costs the American taxpayer, and how many American Politicians wish to privatize or significantly cut it, and you have a serious problem. Largely due to these costing concerns, it is unlikely that Medicare will remain in its current form until my generation will get the benefit of using it. The over consumption of sugar, especially in sugary drinks, is not dietarily necessary, has significant impacts on health, and American public knows this. Cutting down on the amount of sugary drinks will contribute at least somewhat to American health, and the future of Medicare. It is only fair that if Americans continue to consume so much sugary drinks they should be made to contribute to their future healthcare costs through a consumption tax. Soda taxes are more than justified.