Tag Archives: health care reform

Coke and Cigarettes

The current economic crunch has folks looking for $ in interesting places. Several recent reports indicate the lawmakers may be turning to soda pop to help cover escalating health care costs.   In Mark Bittman’s article Soda: A Sin We Sip Instead of Smoke? He carefully covers the current bids for legislation as well as the soda manufacturer’s response.

This generation of children will not have as long of a life expectancy due to being raised on poor quality, industrialized food according to a 2008 CDC report.  Not only is obesity on the rise but 1 in 3 children born in 2000 will become diabetic.

Part of the blame for these daunting figures rests in the cans of soda pop.  Americans drink 50 gallons per person each year.  Dr. Walter Willett, Dr. Robert Lustig and other health and nutrition experts teach us that liquid calories don’t turn on satiety signals.  Sugary liquid calories leave us wanting more and since the body has little metabolic use for sugary substances (particularly fructose) those 50 gallons rapidly turn into stored fat.
Michelle Obama responds by heading up a new campaign against obesity.   Last week, the Obama administration announced a plan to ban candy and sweetened beverages from schools.  Many are advocating for more strenuous action calling for a tax on soda.  The money collected from charging tax on every can of soda (Gov. Patterson of NY at one point was  recommending a penny per ounce) would raise enough money to put a dent in the cost of new health care overhaul.  Soda manufacturer lobbyists note that the tax would hit our poorest citizens hardest.  True enough.  Healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food.  How do we change this?

joe_camelThe same strategy was applied to the tobacco industry, another unhealthful product that was aggressively marketed to children and teenagers, Americans were shamed by the cigarette tax and segregation of smokers and now smoke at half the rate they once did.  The Mad Men era is definitely over.  Actors on the set smoke clove cigarettes.
Some states already have a small excise tax on soda.  I have always optimistically hoped that parent education would turn things around for our childrens health.  The pace of that learning curve may be too slow.  What are your thoughts?  Will taxing junk food help reverse the obesity trend?  Would making cheap food more expensive bring down the cost of healthful food?  Do we make drinking soda uncool the way we ripped off Joe Camel’s shades?