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.

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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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