According to the Briefing Book for the 2009-2010 Executive Budget:
"The Executive Budget proposes an additional 18 percent sales tax on certain high caloric, low nutritional beverages like non-dietetic soft drinks and sodas. Expansion to other high caloric and low nutritional beverages can be considered. Almost one in four New Yorkers under age 18 are obese. Significant price increases should discourage individuals, especially children and teenagers, from consumption and help fight obesity which results in higher risk for diabetes and heart disease. (2009-10 Savings: $404 million; 2010-11 Savings: $539 million)"Many, including New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, think the proposed tax is a great idea. In a column last week, Kristof wrote, “. . . the new soda tax proposed by Gov. David Paterson of New York is such a breakthrough.”
I think it’s a start, not a breakthrough; I can’t fathom why diet soft drinks aren’t covered by the tax. This omission, though, coincides perfectly with our society’s infatuation with the nutrition facts--rather than the ingredient lists--on food labels.
Mind you, soda is a poor example since it is unhealthy no matter what form it comes in, but should Governor Patterson be condoning the consumption of aspartame, an artificial sweetener that has been linked to a myriad of serious diseases, including cancer? Aspartame is what makes diet sodas “diet.” But is saving a couple calories really worth the risk?
It seems our society is overzealous about the amount of fat, calories and cholesterol we consume. We focus on the nutrition facts, zeroing in on the numbers found next to the above three line items. Yet, in our pursuit of nothingness, what damage are we doing to our health by ingesting synthetic, man-made substances of nefarious provenance?
Look at the ingredient lists for some of these “light” and “diet” and ”reduced fat” foodstuffs. Does anyone have a biochemistry degree? What exactly are the corn syrup solids, soy protein, soy lecithin, mono and diglycerides, and polyglycerol esters of fatty acids that save us a gram of saturated fat here or there? Should we be so willing to barter minimal amounts of fat for additives we have to Google to find out what they are?
If real fat (not Ring Ding or Dorito fat) was so bad for us, wouldn’t avocadoes, wild salmon, olive oil and nuts have been subject to some sort of government tax since the Roman Empire?
Governor Patterson, do the health care system and the state a favor--tax 98% of the items in the supermarket that come in a box, plastic package or can. That would be a breakthrough.