Why New York’s Governor Is on My Naughty List
New York Governor Paterson is planning to address a budget gap in part by leveling an “obesity tax” of 15% on non-diet sodas. The assumption here, I suppose, is that non-diet sodas are universally a bad choice, and those who make it deserve to pay extra taxes for the privilege of, I don’t know, actually consuming any calories.
I’ve written before about the unfortunate effects of my consuming the artificial sweeteners in soda. In fact, I described the reaction as causing “me to feel terrible for hours. We’re talking flushing, headache, severe intestinal cramps, a weird, dizzy, out of it feeling, the works.” I learned after experiencing this reaction a time or two that other women in my family have the same reaction.
For me, then, choosing a non-diet soda is not a matter of just not knowing that regular soda has calories or not caring enough about obesity (whatever that would mean). It’s a simple matter of, when I would like to choose a legal soda beverage, not being useless for hours and having serious intestinal issues. I don’t suppose anybody in the Governor’s office, seemingly sure of the health benefits of choosing diet soda, is worried about potential adverse health effects of that same product while they’re implicitly endorsing it.
Something about this just completely gives me the willies. Yes, I know, well if I were in New York, I could choose a beverage other than soda if the tax on non-diet soda is not acceptable to me. I just don’t really like the idea of punitive taxing for behavior control, especially when I perceive it as inconsistent and/or arbitrary. I can sort of understand it with something like cigarettes, where there is pretty strong evidence of inherent badness and there aren’t 800 other smokable tobacco products to choose from that are not being preferentially less taxed. However, will the Governor also be adding taxes to sweetened or just very naturally sweet fruit juices? Is there any evidence that the move would actually improve health, given the apparent endorsement of a particular choice?
[Hat tip to Sean Braisted over at Nashville for the 21st Century]