The Institute of Public Health is proposing that the Irish government implement a tax on soda and other sugary drinks to help combat obesity. Attempts in New York to ban large soft drinks failed because it attacked only one segment of high sugar drinks while not regulating others like fruit drinks, milkshakes, and even lattes which can have more calories than a soda. It’s not possible to tackle a large scale issue by focusing on a single minor element.
If they want to tackle health issues like obesity, why not put a tax on video games like Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox? Instead of children playing outside and burning calories, they sit in front of a screen for hours on end; the only parts of their body performing any exercise are their thumbs.
Health insurance companies are now starting to charge overweight people higher premiums because they seem to think these folks will need more care in the form of knee and hip replacements and heart surgeries. What about athletes? Do they get charged higher premiums? I suspect there are a high percentage of athletes who obtain medical care on a more frequent basis for sprains, fractures, ligament tears, arthroscopic surgeries, as well as hip and knee replacements than the average obese person.
Haven’t governments learned that so called “sin” taxes – those on things like alcohol and cigarettes just don’t work? If a person wants those items, they will forgo other things in their life such as clothing, heat, and even food. Taxing sugary drinks will do the same thing for people who like an occasional soda. Cutting funding for schools means that activities such as the arts and athletics are the first things to go as they are considered non-academic, along with after school programs that provide activities for young people.
Governments tend to tackle large problems like some people weed their gardens – pull just a leaf off a weed and hope the rest of the plant mysteriously disappears. What happens in reality is the weed, if not dug out by the root, just comes back larger. Tax one thing and people shift to another or merely shift their priorities.
In addition, there never seems to be any guarantee with these taxes that the funds will be used to encourage healthier lifestyles. If governments and health insurance companies really want people to become healthier, why aren’t they out there helping to make fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy foods more affordable? Why does sugary cereal cost half as much as a healthier granola? Why does it cost extra in some fast food restaurants to substitute a bottle of water for a soda – especially one that is smaller in total ounces than the soft drink? Pre-processed and fast food is often cheaper than fresh alternatives. That’s where the emphasis needs to be instead of targeting one small element of a much larger societal issue.