BY: NATHANIEL ASTUDILLO
Next time you reach for a thirst-quenching bottle of Coke or Pepsi, the price may make you think twice. The drinks may be taxed in response to studies linking sugary drinks to obesity.
People know that too much sugar is bad for them. But it turns out that the drinks are so unhealthy that it’s turning childhood obesity into a global epidemic. In the United States, nearly one in three children are obese or overweight. In Mexico, a full third of the children are obese or overweight. For American adults, the numbers are higher: almost seven in ten are obese or overweight and, in Mexico, it’s a full seven in ten.
High-calorie, low nutrient food and drink is a major contributor to obesity. It puts children at a higher risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, asthma and even cancer. Further, obese children are also more likely to become obese adults.
The tax is an attempt to curb that problem. Modelled after the success of the high taxation on tobacco, health care professionals and policy makers alike hope that the tax will help to bring those startlingly high numbers down, and to do that, they plan to pour the money generated by the tax into a public health initiatives geared at getting children off of their asses and onto the streets to cause a little trouble, as they should be doing.
Bigwigs in the beverage industry would disagree, with some of their independent studies finding that lowering the sugar-sweetened beverage intake of adolescents caused no change in body-mass indices. Given that those who have the most to lose from the change funded the study, you should take them with a spoonful of sugar.
While attempts are being made to combat childhood obesity and obesity in general, the ultimate power to choosing healthier lifestyles lies with us. The fact that a tax on sugar is being imposed on the public speaks volumes of our capacity for self-control, something we should all try to hone to a fine edge. Indulgence can be enjoyable, liberating even, but our health needs to be addressed with a critical eye. Taxing a product that contributes to the problem seems like a good place to start.