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Will a Big Gulp Tax Make a Dent in Childhood Obesity?

Will a Big Gulp Tax Make a Dent in Childhood Obesity?

by redpillpapa · 3 comments

in Advertising+Media,Health+Wellness,Nutrition+Food,Politics+Policy

Have you ever thought to compare the current obesity crisis — with soda taking center stage — to the fight against Big Tobacco? Well that is how the author of the following New York  Times article is framing it. Read ”Soda – A Sin We Sip Instead of Smoke” here: http://nyti.ms/9ar5mK.

Taxing soda could be a good first step, but there’s oh so much more that needs to be done.  Because once you get rid of those empty calories, how do you then peel these same kids away from their video games, rip the Big Macs and KFC from their clenched fingers, and get them moving again in the great outdoors? And most importantly, how do you get the message to their parents that they are poisoning their own kids slowly with the food they’re feeding them?

Demonizing one thing in a sea of other demons is a politician’s solution.  And when you talk about adding tax, which I agree in theory is a good idea, you’d better include the Twinkies too, because our nation of sugar addicts will head straight for that aisle next – and the M & Ms and the non-soda highly sweetened beverages, and all the other crap which lists high fructose corn syrup as its second or third ingredient.  In the New York Times article referenced above, Kelly Brownell, director of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity is quoted, “What you want is to reverse the fact that healthy food is too expensive and unhealthy food is too cheap, and the soda tax is a start. Unless food marketing changes, it’s hard to believe that anything else can work.” Essentially, a tax is great for governors addressing high medical costs and low budgets in their states — especially in times of financial crisis and shortfalls — but what’s needed is to take the whole sweetened, processed, fatted food industry into account and tax ALL of their products, not just soda. And unless government is willing to re-regulate advertising to children, I do not expect food marketing to change.

I think the biggest challenge that we face in getting the truth out and achieving real health-focused reform is that somewhere between the sprinkling of us Red Pill Parents on the map, there is a nation of mis-informed or uninformed people; people who lack the information and the common sense to make health-affirming food choices for themselves and their children, and a bevy of career politicians who are supported by big agribusinesses and who are not incentivized to make real healthy choices for their constituents. Otherwise, how can so many Americans be truly surprised when they find out that the two Big Gulps they’ve been consuming every day are the main contributing factor to their shiny new Early Onset Diabetes diagnosis?  I actually had a NYC cab driver from Ghana once, who told me that he had diabetes because when he first got here, he drank several cans of Coke each day.  He felt remorseful at being so ignorant, but in his mind, he was living his version of the American Dream.  Perhaps he has more of an excuse, being raised in Africa (probably on natural, locally-grown foods) and probably never imagining that Coca Cola — such a universal symbol of America — was poison in a can. A ‘gateway drug’ even — to the diabetes medications that he would eventually be dependent on, and buying from the pharmaceutical companies.  But for those of us raised on American soil, on American television, and in American schools, come on!  How can anyone today not understand the ramifications of a soda habit?

Michelle Obama, in her fight against childhood obesity, wants to outlaw soda and candy from all schools.  To me, this is a common-sense idea that should, in truth, alarm us — because of the fact that there is even candy and soda in our schools in the first place (and I’m not talking about bake sales and Valentines Day parties). I remember following the debate (in the early 90s, I believe) when vending machines first appeared in public schools. They were being touted as a way to help schools with budget shortfalls, and soft drink manufacturers were cutting deals with local school districts for what amounted to advertising and sponsorship deals.  It could be argued that these local governments had no other choice, but what price did the students in those school districts ultimately pay, to have the soda and candy companies suddenly become the saviors of school budget shortfalls?  If this is not a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing scenario, I don’t know what is.  I think only the guy in the Joe Camel suit handing out flavored cigarettes during recess circa 1965 was worse.  And look what the balanced budgets of school district after school district provided: plumped up juvenile diabetics whose health care costs more than their education.  Way to pass the buck.

Unfortunately, so many of these large-scale health issues that we are fighting are the result of the deregulation of the advertising industry during the Reagan administration in the 80′s (I promise I’ll cover that in a subsequent post). The door was opened for advertisers to get directly in front of children, and their influence has grown exponentially (for more insight into the insidious tactics of the soft drink industry, read Red Pill Mama’s post, “Oh, This Bloody Coke Thing”).

Our country, as a whole, has twisted and contorted into shapes we are now only realizing are unrecognizable. To follow this analogy, imagine that some of our leaders were double-jointed/two-faced/able to speak from both sides of their mouths, and while the party was raging, they engaged in a Twister marathon. With no player able to follow the last spin, ‘left foot on green,’ all players have collapsed onto the floor, unable to achieve balance for a second longer. In this pile-on of Superbowl proportions, who is going to referee and start pulling bodies/government officials off of this pile of paralyzed players?  I believe it has to be us.  Call me naive and idealistic, but I still believe that if enough of us common-sense folk gather together (please don’t tell me I sound like Sarah Palin), that we can effect change. This is not my battle cry, nor my call to duty. But I do hope that those of you reading this, who share a sense of outrage and of being sold out, will share this information with your friends, and help Red Pill Parents to become a forum where we like-minded individuals can gather, and feel the comfort of a common bond. From there, who knows where it will go?

So maybe a Big Gulp! tax won’t eliminate obesity.  But if the soda industry (personally would prefer it to include the entire sweetener/high fructose corn syrup industry) is highly regulated and forced to put big warning labels on their products, it will be a start: similar to another previous start, born of people who trusted their sense that something was not right when offices and other workplaces were filled with second-hand smoke and that by allowing this, our government was not acting in the best interest of the most number of people.

So go Michelle; go Big Gulp tax.  Get it started, and hopefully it will keep going.

- Red Pill Papa

Resources:

For a balanced overview of high fructose corn syrup, read this article on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-fructose_corn_syrup

{ 2 trackbacks }

Mama’s Two Cents on the Big Gulp Issue: Embracing “No”
February 17, 2010 at 6:32 pm
Mama Obama Scolds The Grocery Manufacturers of America, Will They Shape Up?
March 17, 2010 at 5:24 pm

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Shannon March 8, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Amen! My problem is fast food because they have the cool toys. Here’s a little secret to help — you can buy the toy without the meal. My son is allowed about one fast food meal a month. If he wants a particular toy later in the month, we only buy the toy (for less than $2 each). You can start to see heart disease in children as young as preschool age. Our children have a LOWER life expectancy than we do. It is truly shocking how overly indulgent our country has become.

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