Gastonia, NC Correspondent-“Sin” taxes are nothing new. Every time a municipal, state or federal government needs to raise some fast cash, it slaps new taxes on things we feel guilty for using anyway, such as alcohol or tobacco. The voices against such increases are muted because no one wants to be seen as championing an unhealthy lifestyle choice, even though most of us down a highball to calm our nerves after contemplating what the new taxes will cost us.
The most egregious of these taxes are cloaked by their writers in a fabric of concern over public health. “We’re going to make cigarettes cost $8/pack so everyone will quit smoking,” they say. Or “If single malt scotch costs $400/bottle, Scott won’t drink so much.” I can tell you from personal experience that I’ll give up bacon before I give up my beloved Talisker, so the tax-writers can go to Hades on the latter point.
Yes, smoking rates have dropped in this country, but research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that that’s overwhelmingly due to education and public perception (peer pressure to the younger set) not expense.
The tax on soda proposed in Philadelphia is absolutely laughable. The city that gave the world that classic gut bomb known as a Philly cheesesteak is going to natter on about sodas? Take in a game at Lincoln Financial Field and you’ll see waistlines that could only be improved by immediate conversion to a monastic diet of bread and water, not a soda tax.
Take your classic urban parent. They’re out shopping with the kids, and the sprats start howling for a soda. I don’t care how big a sip the tax man takes, mom or dad are going to shell out the pence to pay for the pop just to get a little peace and quiet. Taxing soda to try to reduce consumption is sheerest folly, and those responsible for the tax should be thrown bodily into a vat of Fanta.
Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-In a recent battle against the beverage industry, the city council granted a 1.5 cent per ounce tax on sugary drinks. Many have proclaimed that this is a strategic method employed by the Government of Philadelphia to regulate the health of its citizens, but I’m not convinced.
Everything is just not what it seems. Like I’ve always preached, regardless of how elaborate a product is taxed, if a person wants that particular product, they will have that product. In this case, if a Philadelphian yearns for a sugary beverage, they’re going to have a sugary drink. A typical case in point: We all know that cigarettes kill. In fact, it’s mentioned on the label. Do we not have persons smoking cigars, sometimes a box per day?
Do you see my point? The government is not trying to curb the consumption of sugary drinks; neither do they care about the interest of the people. This tax spike is just to add a few more dollars to their treasury chest.
Yes, Philadelphia is approximately 40% obese and overweight, but I don’t believe taxing sugary beverages will contribute to a thing. It might incur a loss for the beverage industry, but it sure as hell won’t prevent obesity and overweight.
Owatonna, MN Correspondent-So-called “sin taxes” have been popular with legislators for decades, if not centuries. It’s easy to pass laws that penalize behavior with which the majority of voters disapprove because the electorate won’t hold that vote against the incumbents at election time.
A century ago, sin taxes weren’t that big a deal, because government intrusion into our personal lives was minimal to non-existent. However, with the advent of income taxes, Social Security, Medicare, extensive welfare benefits to poor individuals and giant corporations, the Affordable Care Act, and a mile high stack of regulations for just about every facet of doing business and living our lives, sin taxes become not only egregious but an insult to our collective intelligence.
A 1.5 cent/oz. tax on sugary drinks is likely to have little effect on improving health. Nor will it curb consumption of sodas. All the tax will do is push more people to buy sugar-free sodas and other beverages. These come with a different set of health risks that may offset the presumed benefits of weight loss and better health in people who consume less sugar. Research has shown that people who switch from sugar to artificial sweeteners to cut down on calories and the bad effects of sugar often eat more because they think they are saving calories by consuming sugar-free products.
While this tax is indeed a prime example of government overreach, it seems inevitable. The more control government has over our individual health care due to various benefits like Medicare and the forced requirement to buy health insurance, the more sensitive they will be to costs since they are paying more than ever for so many Americans’ health care costs through our taxes. The dwindling numbers of taxpayers who end up paying this soda tax and other taxes but receive little or no direct benefit in the form of various subsidies from the government will be “The Biggest Losers,” not those who may lose weight from drinking fewer beverages containing sugar.
Prescott Valley, NV Correspondent-The Philadelphia tax is part of an attempt to fund educational programs, particularly early childhood education as well as city projects that include establishment of community schools, parks, libraries, and recreation center improvements and additions. Tax credits are to be offered to those businesses that provide and sell healthy options with beverages.
Many Philadelphians are angered over the tax as 58 percent of them were opposed to the measure that will tax over a thousand everyday grocery items that include both bottled, canned, or fountain drinks, along with those with sugar or artificial sweeteners. Many citizens are fearful that the tax will unfairly affect the poor of the city and cause job losses for those in the beverage and other related industries.
Though the main focus of the tax is to address the issue of sugary drinks being bad for health, while defying the beverage industry in general, the projected tax revenues appear to not be specifically designated towards programs to curb the consumption of sugary drinks by those who are most vulnerable to its effects, the poor.
Taxes that attempt to restrain people’s behaviors are manipulative and are an overreach, particularly when the taxes get to the point of not serving the issues they represent. When those taxes begin to creep up in percentages as more and more money is needed to fund programs totally different than what was originally intended, tax increases and progressions should not be allowed to be implemented.
It is up to city governments to pare down their budgets and focus on programs that educate citizenry about what a city has to do to meet the needs of its citizens. Rather than dictating to citizens what they are going to eat and drink, cities need to make people aware of what certain food products can do to their health and warn them of the dangers and consequences of overindulgence. Punishing the food and beverage industry for the poor choices of individuals that over consume is not their responsibility nor is it the responsibility of a city government.
As far as a tax realistically curbing consumption of soda and other sugary drinks, nothing can curb human nature and the desire to drink sugary drinks. None of it will be stopped because of a tax. It will just make consumers mad and they will find alternative ways to both drink and eat sugar laden drinks and food products that they are used to consuming. They will either cross state lines to buy sodas and other products, boycott local stores, or use illegal tactics. No city government or tax is going to stop them from pursuing their eating and drinking habits.
City governments always seem to have pet projects that they need to fund and rather than analyzing the budget and spending habits of the city itself and cutting inefficient programs, city councils and mayors will take it upon themselves to dictate to the tax base. Rather than eliminating administrative offices and other superfluous jobs and positions, they always go to tax increases and use them as cover for their own ineptitude in city management.
Sugary drinks have been a big catchall for tax increases in other big cities, under the guise of improving and preventing health crises, but the consumer knows better. It’s all to make up for a city’s inability to budget appropriately and live within its own means, so they have to find monies elsewhere, plus the City of Philadelphia’s law department will have to face the scourge of its citizens and the beverage giants. Philadelphia mayor Kenney will face legal challenges that he never anticipated—and the people will speak at the voting booth.