A Tax to Fight Obesity?

Last December, New York Governor David Paterson’s proposal for an “obesity tax” received widespread news coverage. Paterson would like to instate an 18% tax on “sugared drinks,” including fruit beverages that are less than 70% juice. This would include, of course, all regular (not diet) soft drinks. He estimates that the tax would reduce consumption of these items by 5%, and money generated from the tax would go toward public health programs.


Reactions to the governor’s proposal were varied, with some lauding the effort and others denouncing it as cynical (proposed because of a budget deficit), intrusive (government trying to decide what people drink), misguided (obesity is not caused just by sugary beverages), or even counterproductive (the government might not discourage soda consumption once it relied on the tax revenue). A poll from Quinnipiac University found that 60% of New York residents oppose such a tax.

Paterson and his allies aren’t giving up, though — the New York State Commissioner of Health, Richard F. Daines, MD, has recently been promoting the tax throughout the state. He even created a YouTube video supporting Paterson’s plan and discussing the merits of milk over soda:

What do you think? Is a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages a good idea? Should it be called an “obesity tax”? Are there better ways to tackle the obesity epidemic? Leave a comment below!

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  • Dennis

    Why would anyone want to give their money to the govt. as a tax for being obese? I’m sure they would use the money to correct the obesity, wouldn’t they? Yeah, RIGHT. So the money would be like the stimulus program-money thrown right down the tanker. Aren’t the obese already “taxed”? They have to buy 2 seats on airlines, clothes are more expensive, trying to lose weight costs money(paying for education on books or teachers). There’s also the emotional costs. Finding a wife or husband, the stigma of being obese, having to take the abuse out in the public. I’m sure there is more that I haven’t mentioned. No matter it is a bad-no horrible idea.

  • Becky

    I think a tax on sugared beverages is a good idea. However, I don’t like the idea of calling it an obesity tax. I realize that is what it is trying to avoid, but those who are obese have enough trouble as it is without the stigma of “causing” people to be taxed on a beverage. What I would hope is that the tax would help curtail the consumption of those beverages by children.

  • kath

    Soda vs milk.\

    That would be okay if everyone drank milk I hate milk but I also don’t drink soda. Why don’t you people just let us live our live and stop trying to make this a communistic country by taking all our rights away and taxing us to death

  • delebra

    I think if there were to be a tax on sweetened drinks, it should be on those with high fructose corn syrup, not sugar. There’s been suspicion for a long time that it’s the HFCS that’s the problem, not sugar. Back when sodas were sweetened with sugar there were not the alarming rates of obesity there are now – and they tasted a lot better! And despite the ads on TV, HCFS does have its problems – a new study associates fructose with a rise in triglycerides.
    But I think a tax on sweetened drinks is missing the point. Advertising has created a demand for bigger and bigger portions of everything, the cheaper the better. This leads to more and more artificial ingredients which are cheaper to manufacture and have much more effect on weight and health than the natural ingredients they replace.

  • Paula

    i love this tax – but it falls a bit short of where the mark needs to be. were i the ruler of the world, not only would there be the tax – but there would also be severe fines (quite possibly enough to fund a cure for diabetes!) for any media outlet reporting on our current ‘diabetic epidemic’. it is an epidemic of obesity, no less real or problematic – but why do diabetic dollars have to be spent on the bariatric, surely they are deserving and should have a budget all their own?! Or, more pragmatically, diabetics should band together with Coronary Disease, Circulation Concerns and all other diseases and foundations that support them, who are feeling the added ‘weight’ of the obese, and show the obese the way to their own respect for their very real affliction. it deserves top billing, not to be buried under other secondary illness which come about as a result of their condition.

  • JR

    I totally agree with Delebra about HFCS, but I think this is descrimination against the overweight. It’sort of like charging more for large print books bought by the legally blind.
    Soda, in general, is already taxed, and this is a crazy objective, Why not add tax to all cake and candy, and perhaps steak and eggs due to high cholesterol? Soon it won’t be just businesses leaving New York.

  • James McKee

    I agree with you about the obesity problem but not with the sugar sweetened drink cause. One has to have a change in attitude towards all sugars, including chocolate, potato chips and the like.
    I am obese and have quit drinking sugar sweetened soda pop a decade ago; but what I have not cut out is the other sugars.

  • hollyhock

    If a state is going to tax a sugar beverage, it should also tax a sugar-free beverage, including cow’s milk. There is nothing more disgusting than cow’s milk with its antibiotics, blood and pus all pooling together in that great white liquid.

    I’m a former New Yorker, and it is present New Yorkers who have the final word. I pay a tax on sugar beverages in California. Milk gets off because everyone thinks it’s so healthful.

    Drink soy milk or even rice milk instead. It’s healthier, better tasting and does away with the cruelty of constantly breeding a cow so she lactates. When she goes dry, she’s slaughtered and all of that stuff, and more, goes into your steak and hamburger.

  • TOWN CRYER-1776

    It’s a noble cause by New York Governor, however Cow Milk has a hidden problem as well rBGH – residues in all Dairy Products that aren’t Organic, because Monsanto’s toxic bovine hormone Posilac- that’s injected into dairy cows to force them to produce more milk- is also causing cancer rates to escalate – in colon, breast, prostrate, lung, and others. When the only thing that has to be done is to grass feed dairy cows because they are all Herbivores, and Herbivores only are supposed to eat grass- not GM Modified Corn/ Grains. Cows grass fed produce 33% more milk than cows injected with Posilac. To learn more about the toxin causing humans who drink this milk to get more Cancer go to: http://www.responsibletechnology.org and watch the video…………..

  • Viki

    I know the idea is to RAISE taxes FOR health programs — e.g., smokers, obese, etc. but why not try “Reverse Psychology”? — offer TAX INCENTIVES for being in shape. Maybe moer would try and we wouldn’t need all the health programs. Pie in the sky, I know — but I can dream, can’t I??? Oh, for the perfect world — SOME DAY ! ! !

  • reosales

    Thus is just anjother example of creeping socialism in our democracy.
    The government should not tell me what to eat or drink!

  • Mateach

    Everybody should be alarmed by this. First they tax smokers, then drinkers. It’s not the sugar that’s the problem, it’s not knowing when enough is enough. The key is everything in moderation. Taxing sugared drinks is dumb, and pointing it out by calling it an “Obesity Tax” is tanamount to prejudice.

  • anti Govt control

    NO “OBESITY TAX”. Government officials must stop trying to regulate American individuals, even if the real agenda is for fiscal gain. Governors need to l
    learn to work within their budget. People must retain responsibility and accountability for their own development, choices, successes and failures.

  • matay

    My comment on the obesity tax is that this Governer hasn’t thought this through. First of all not all people can use artificial sweetners ,like myself I am allergic to all artificial sweetners. I am diabetic and have a rough time keep sugar out of my diet. I drink water and coffee. Some times when we are out doing errans, if I am out of things to bring sugar up I will purchase a regular soda and drink part of it. I don’t think this bill would be fair to people like me.

  • Kathy

    This is government getting into peoples lives again, where they do not belong!!!!

  • CalgaryDiabetic

    Dear readers.

    My beloved mayor of Montreal imposed a cigarette tax to pay for the massive cost overrun of the 1976 summer olympics due to embezzlement, fraud, mismanagement and his ridiculous grandiose ideas. I did not even bother to finish my opened pack I threw it in the garbage and never smoked again.

    Sometimes extreme anger at the tax did thetrick.

  • amigo1977

    A great step in the right direction .
    from a retired military pediatrician . We are on a crusade to fight this epidemic in Texas !!!!!!!

  • sllovelace

    I think this idea is totally ridiculous!! I am a diabetic & have been for 13 years and I never drink sugared sodas or fruit juice. I watch my sugar (carbohydrate) intake to every bite I eat & am still diabetic. God forbid if I eat a piece of bread or half of a baked potato or a small piece of corn bread. Because my blood sugar will be over 300 in a flash. The Government is too much in peoples’ lives as it is. Now they are telling people they can’t even smoke in their own cars or homes. You are taxed on everything you own. I hope the Govener gains 300 lbs. & gets diabetes to boot!!! You are taxed from the time you are born til you die. They want EVERY PENNY we make. Tax yourself more & people like you who are making more money in a month than what little Soc. Sec. benefits I draw in a YEAR!!!!

  • Dorine Chambers

    No because there are studies showing that aspertame the most used sugar substitute is not good for you either. Taxing beverages with sugar would just encourage those who do not need diet drinks to use them. It wouldn’t help anyway. Education is the only answer.

  • No More Rights

    Just one more way the government is taking away our freedoms!!

  • haroldt

    For me there are two sides of this story…One is that we should not let government pick and choose what we eat. The other side of the story is my firm conviction that processed foods, corn sweetners, and excess chemicals and preservatives have promoted obesity. The government should both encourage more natural alternatives and scrutinize all these additives. While we don’t want government controlling what we eat, we certainly have big business controlling what we eat AND FOR A PROFIT. The for a profit part doesn’t motivate them to sell us whats good for us.
    P.S For all you folks out there that hate government….look what business is feeding you.
    Do you know what half of this stuff is on the label? Business good, government bad ..right!!