Why I Don’t Support a “Soda Tax”

mountain dew nutrition labelMy local community of Boulder, Colorado is up in arms about how poorly parents feed their children. Gluten! Sugar! Starches! Meat! GMO! There’s even a big fight now about whether the public pool snack bars should offer ice cream to patrons, with the local government officials explaining that “ice cream bars previously being sold have larger portion sizes and higher sugar and fat content than is allowed”.

And now the latest issue is soda.

Before I go further, I’m very aware of the data that shows that overconsumption of soda is a leading cause of childhood obesity. The CDC says, for example: “Sugar sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugar and an important contributor of calories in the diets of children”. That’s easy to address, though: Parents just need to say “no” and offer alternatives. There are tons of good, far healthier sodas on the market now from companies as varied as Blue Sky, Veri Organic, and even local favorite Bhakti Chai.

Then there are what can only be described as duplicitous nutrition labels. The FDA highlights 20oz soda labels, stating that “commonly consumed in one sitting, [they] have more than one serving listed.” An example is the Mountain Dew label shown. It’s a 20oz bottle but lists 2.5 servings per container (8oz per serving), which lets consumers check and see that, hey, it’s only 31g of sugar and a total of 110 calories. Not too bad, right? Until you multiply the numbers out properly and realize that actually, that bottle has 275 calories and a whopping 77.5 grams of sugar. That’s a lotta not so good for you.

Sin taxes, as they’re called, have been a part of taxation forever. That’s why there are extra taxes imposed on cigarettes and alcohol: if it’s not approved as contributing to a “healthy lifestyle” by the powers that be, you’re going to pay an additional surcharge to acquire your product of choice.

I can only assume that the righteous, anxiety-ridden members of the Boulder City Council have seen the incursion of machines like the popular Coca-Cola “Freestyle” soda dispenser (see pic, below) and wrung their hands, bemoaning the inevitable results: fat, unhealthy citizens. Since they can’t outlaw high fructose corn syrup (yet) they’re taking the alternative of proposing a soda tax, a surcharge on beverages that don’t meet their clean, healthy living guidelines. In fact, it’ll be on our next ballot.

Kinda like those ice cream sandwiches at the pool, actually. Who are they to legislate what I can feed my children?

The underlying problem with all of this thinking is that the city is taking over the role of parenting, particularly when they talk about children and the consumption of sugar, soda, etc. It’s what’s known amusingly as the “Nanny State” but it’s an alarming trend.

coke coca-cola freestyle soda machine dispenserTo be completely straight and clear about it: I don’t want other people to dictate what I can feed my children, whether it’s an ice cream treat or a cold can of soda on a hot afternoon. And make no mistake, a soda tax is behavioral legislation.

Parents have always been responsible for their children’s health and well being, and while some of us pay lots of attention to that responsibility, others aren’t so great at the job and might even ignore food completely, assuming their child can make reasonably smart food decisions at, say, 15 or 16. Some kids have parents who serve steaming plates of vegetables for dinner, some have tacos from Taco Bell, and plenty are somewhere in the middle, parents who are trying but don’t always hit a home run. And somehow children survive and make it to adulthood.

Even in Orwell’s prescient 1984, the citizens don’t want to live in a world where their moves are monitored and they’re penalized for wrong thinking, wrong actions and, likely, wrong eating.

I really can decide if my children need a can of soda pop or an ice cream, thank you City Council, and I’m quite capable of saying “no” to them if I want them to ease back on their sugar or fat consumption, have more veggies, try a tofu dish, whatever. I don’t need the city to guide me. In fact, I don’t need anyone to guide me.

I don’t want a soda tax, and nor should you. Instead, just parent. You know, what we’re supposed to do as parents in the first place.

One comment on “Why I Don’t Support a “Soda Tax”

  1. The city council isn’t saying your kid can’t have a soda, but if your kid has a soda they make extra tax money. LOL! It’s a bit ironic, really.

    Ultimately, kids (of any tax bracket, creed or color) who run to the store to buy a soda aren’t going to stop and analyze the amount of tax they’re paying for said soda. This is a win/win for Boulder: they can look like a society conscious town council and then reap the rewards in forms of taxes from the hundreds of thousands who will continue to buy soda.

    There is so much silliness in the word today and it seems like Boulder continues to be the leader.

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