Friday, December 26, 2008

Sugared Beverages

Commentary from Governor David Patterson, New York on

Today, we find ourselves in the midst of a new public health epidemic: childhood obesity.

What smoking was to my parents’ generation, obesity is to my children’s generation. Nearly one out of every four New Yorkers under the age of 18 is obese. In many high-poverty areas, the rate is closer to one out of three.

That is why, in the state budget I presented last Tuesday, I proposed a tax on sugared beverages like soda. Research has demonstrated that soft-drink consumption is one of the main drivers of childhood obesity.

These days I’m no longer surprised when something like an “obesity tax” is foisted upon the masses without so much as a whimper – afterall it is your fault if you’re fat, right? You should pay more, right?

Several commentators in the media applauded the move by Governor Patterson – Nicolas Kristof opined the hope that other states will follow suit because “if other states follow, [it] could help make us healthier.”

He even ties it up neatly with a bow, repeating Patterson’s parallel to smoking and cigarettes, “These days, sugary drinks are to American health roughly what tobacco was a generation ago. A tax would shift some consumers, especially kids, to diet drinks or water.”

No one likes taxes, but by golly, we must do this for the children! We must save ourselves from ourselves with this tax – save the children, save the world, reduce consumption of sugared beverages and all will be well.

What’s maddening isn’t so much the propsed tax on sugared beverages, it is what government does if they can get away with it….what’s maddening is that no one seems to notice that we are already paying taxes that enable the flood of cheap soda, fruit drinks and sugared beverages into our markets. It’s paid by our taxes in the Farm Bill, with corn being king amongst the crops subsidized by our tax dollars.

This new tax represents a double taxation to New Yorkers – taxed first from their income to subsidize corn in the Farm Bill; and now to add insult to injury, when they dare to consume products made from the corn products their tax dollars helped make cheap at the consumer level – namely high-fructose corn syrup….beverages produced that are artificially low in price at the consumer level and often cheaper than buying a bottle of water!

If the government truly wants to tackle the obesity epidemic, perhaps it’s time to revisit the Farm Bill and how it is directly creating a market flooded with cheap corn calories at the consumer level for things like high-fructose corn syrup which is used in thousands of food products in our markets!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Banning Bottled Water

They say the road to hell is paved by good intentions.

The Toronto Star recently noted the political battlelines drawn around the debate to ban bottled water in Toronto, “Environmentalists claim bottled water commercializes a public resource, undermines faith in Canadian water systems, and sends plastic bottles to the landfills. The bottled water industry counters that environmental groups rig recycling rate numbers and vilify a product that helps combat obesity.”

Last week the vote was cast and the Toronto city council voted to immediately ban the sale and/or distribution of bottled water in City Hall and the city’s civic centres where contracts permit, and ban the sale and/or distribution of bottled water in other city-owned facilities such as arenas and theatres by the end of 2011.

While it’s now illegal to not only sell bottled water, but also illegal to distribute bottled water in city-owned facilities in Toronto, it’s still perfectly legal and acceptable to sell and distribute sweetened waters (translation – soda and fruit drinks).

Afterall, isn’t that really what soda and fruit drinks are – simply sweetened water?

Let me see if I understand this.

Bottled water = bad-illegal

Bottled soda & fruit drinks = good-legal

This vote after Statistics Canada released data that found Canadians consumed more than 95 litres of soft drinks in 2007!

How much more soda and fruit drinks do you think folks will drink now that bottled water is banned?