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Medicine Science

California City May Tax Sugary Drinks Like Cigarettes 842

Posted by Soulskill
from the protecting-us-from-ourselves dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Voters in Richmond, California are set to decide in November whether to make the Bay Area city the nation's first municipality to tax soda and other sugary beverages to help fight childhood obesity. The penny-per-ounce tax, projected to raise between $2 million and $8 million, would go to soccer fields, school gardens and programs to treat diabetes and fight obesity. Councilman Jeff Ritterman, a doctor who proposed the measure, says soda is a prime culprit behind high childhood obesity rates in Richmond, where nearly 20 percent of residents live below the poverty line. 'If you look at where most of our added sugar is coming, it's coming from the sugar-sweetened beverages,' says Ritterman. 'It's actually a poison for you, because your liver can't handle that huge amount of fructose.' Not everyone is pleased by the proposed license fee on businesses selling sweetened drinks. It would require owners of bodegas, theaters, convenience stores and other outlets to tally ounces sold and, presumably, pass the cost on to customers. Soda taxes have failed elsewhere — most notably in Philadelphia, where Mayor Michael A. Nutter's attempts to impose a 2-cents-per-ounce charge on sugary drinks have sputtered twice. However, Dr. Bibbins-Domingo says similar taxes on cigarettes have had a dramatic effect on public health. 'It was a few decades ago when we had high rates of tobacco and we had high rates of tobacco-related illnesses. Those measures really turned the tide and really led to lower rates of tobacco across the country.'"
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California City May Tax Sugary Drinks Like Cigarettes

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  • by alphatel (1450715) * on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:15AM (#40256645)
    It's nice to see so many cities are willing to help us out by telling us what to buy [slashdot.org], then moving those funds to "help people" and "create jobs". The rhetoric is unending and unhelpful. I really don't care if this helps kids for five minutes, because ten minutes from now they'll switch to cheap artificially sweetened drinks that are cancerous. We don't need to talk about that though, just the fact's ma'am.
  • by elucido (870205) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:19AM (#40256707)

    Why should everyone else have to pay higher taxes because some people like to drink poison or smoke fiberglass particles?

    It may be their choice but they should have to pay for their choice and not make everyone else pay.

  • by aztrailerpunk (1971174) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:20AM (#40256719)

    because ten minutes from now they'll switch to cheap artificially sweetened drinks that are cancerous. .

    Don't worry citizen, California is already preparing a label for that.

  • by Shoten (260439) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:21AM (#40256729)

    Dr. Bibbins-Domingo credits the taxation of tobacco products with being the sole cause of decreased smoking. But it seems to me that I grew up with no desire to try cigarettes after spending my childhood watching PSA after PSA pointing out that it would cause all sorts of horrible diseases. Taxation never figured into it for me...and it also seems that taxation only matters after you're hooked on cigarettes, too. I smoke cigars occasionally, but whatever added cost comes from the taxes don't matter, since it's a rare occurrence. The taxes would matter only if I were regularly spending money on them, like habitual cigarette smokers do. And I've seen how hard it is for smokers to stop, once they are hooked...it's incredibly hard. So I doubt that taxation was the main cause of the decrease in smoking.

  • Taxing the taxes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Supermike68 (2535978) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:22AM (#40256761)
    The sugar in these drinks is high fructose corn syrup which we all know comes from corn. Corn farming in the united states is subsidized by the federal government.

    So taxing products that contain high fructose corn syrup is taxing something that people already pay taxes on!

  • Re:Fructose (Score:3, Insightful)

    by littlebigbot (2493634) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:27AM (#40256827)
    I think drinking enough soda to become obese is terrible for you whether its made with HFCS or sugar.
  • "because ten minutes from now they'll switch to cheap artificially sweetened drinks that are cancerous."
    please name a study that actual shows they are cancerous.

    There is no good evidence of that.

  • by codewarren (927270) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:31AM (#40256885)

    I understand the sentiment of not needing the government to tell us what to buy, but I am really tired of the myth that "artificial" sweeteners cause cancer and "natural" sugar is somehow safe. Consuming sugar is known to greatly increase your risk of obesity (and thereby a host of other health issues like heart disease and diabetes). Whereas the least safe of all of the no calorie or low calorie sweeteners in use, aspartame, has not been demonstrated to be a carcinogen at all.

    Even if there is a clear line between "natural" and "artificial" it does not follow that the former is in any way safe. Much of nature is out to kill you.

  • by kidgenius (704962) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:34AM (#40256937)
    I'd say sedentary lifestyle has just as much to do with it. When you were a farmer, you could have a gigantic breakfast, huge lunch, and crazy dinner. Thing was because you were outside moving around all day, you'd just burn those calories up and it wouldn't be an issue.
  • by mhajicek (1582795) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:34AM (#40256941)
    Then perhaps healthcare shouldn't be a public burden. Why should anyone pay for anyone else's life choices? The options are two: remove public healthcare or remove the choices. Our society is moving rapidly toward the latter. The logical continuation is to determine an optimal course of action for every person at every point in time, and to punish them if they attempt to deviate from their orders. We will eat what we're told to and nothing else. We will sleep and wake when we're told to and at no other time. We will exercise, work, and entertain ourselves in the exact manner which we are instructed to. To do anything else would be selfish, increasing the cost to society. Think of the children!
  • by ifwm (687373) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:37AM (#40256985) Journal

    Sick people cost more money than healthy people which means your taxes go up paying for smokers and soda drinkers.

    That's your fault for voting for policies that require you to pay for those people. There's something tyrannical about using the majority to force people to accept healthcare from you, then using the healthcare you forced them to accept as a tool to change their behavior.

  • by codewarren (927270) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:38AM (#40257003)

    In what world do most obese children "choose" to be fat? Most children are unaware of the nuances of dieting, the dangers of obesity, and the difficulty in losing weight once gained. They don't choose their parents or the culture they're born into either.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:38AM (#40257021)

    "The rest of us" shouldn't have to pay for anybody's choices. How about everybody pays for their own healthcare expenses? Gosh, what a concept!

    Tell me how well that works out for you when you have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer treatment out of pocket.

    We have insurance to spread the risk, not to encourage people to take stupid risks and make intentionally bad choices.

  • by LordLucless (582312) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:40AM (#40257051)

    It's perfectly rational to tax people who choose to make bad choices which will lead to higher health care costs for everyone else.

    Now, I know this is a radical thought, but how about you pay for your healthcare, I'll pay for mine, and you can keep your damn nose out of whatever the hell I want to do.

    This is why political conservatives oppose state-funded health care; not because they hate poor people, but because it's the camel's nose in the tent. And pretty soon, the damn camel's telling you what you're allowed to do, not do, eat drink and breathe.

    Also, I'd like actual stats on those health care costs of yours. Dying is expensive, no matter what it's from. Most of my elderly relatives don't suffer from diabetes or heart disease, and yet they're in and out of hospitals regularly. When my grandfather died, it was after being in hospital for months, and he was basically just dying of old age. The cheapest way to go would actually be one big coronary or stroke in middle age.

  • by Bigbutt (65939) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:50AM (#40257199) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps, but what's an unhealthy lifestyle? Where do you stop? Is driving one of the shoebox sized cars an unhealthy lifestyle? Is riding a motorcycle unhealthy? How about living under power lines, is that considered an unhealthy lifestyle? Live near an airport or next to a busy road? You eat non-organic foods? You walk outside without sunscreen? You live in the city? You ride a bicycle to work? You drive an SUV? You eat meat? You eat fish? Are you getting enough caffeine? Are you using an antiperspirant? Are you using detergent?

    What unhealthy lifestyle choices are you making where you should be taxed more or kicked off of healthcare to let die?

    [John]

  • Soda and the poor? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:51AM (#40257227)

    Councilman Jeff Ritterman, a doctor who proposed the measure, says soda is a prime culprit behind high childhood obesity rates in Richmond, where nearly 20 percent of residents live below the poverty line.

    Really? So poor people have to drink soda because they can't afford water? Walmart shows a 24ct case of .5 liter water for $3.48 online. A quick look around my house found a Rite Aid pharmacy add for 3 12-can packs of Pepsi for just under $11 with a loyalty card. That comes out to roughly $3.66 per 12-can pack. Looks to me like water is actually in most cases cheaper than sugary drinks like soda. How about that.

    Councilman Ritterman, listen up. You want to make people healthier, change their eating habits, ok. But don't say this is about "helping the poor". Because it's not. If you charge them more for soda, guess what? They're going to keep drinking soda, and be even poorer. The only people that might actually switch to water or something healthier are the people who can actually afford the tax already. If you want to make people healthier, you can't legislate it. You have to teach them, educate them about being healthy. Let me teach you a nice little rhyme that might help you. If you are trying to ban something or tax something to change people's behavior think of this: educate, don't legislate.

  • by stevew (4845) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:53AM (#40257263) Journal

    Indeed - welcome to the Nanny state - now hand over all your money so we can give it to someone else who doesn't want earn their keep by themselves.

    The argument that raising taxes on cigarettes caused the decline in smoking is specious on it's face. Oh I'm sure some where deterred from buying cigarettes because of the ridiculous economic burden imposed by the state on the "legal product." However, the simple facts are that more people don't smoke because it's obviously a killer AND people are STILL paying the current HUGE price to get their fix after being raised dozens of times in the last 30 years.

    It's just smoke and mirrors.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:56AM (#40257295)

    Sounds great. When you die of cancer that costs more than you can afford to treat, can I have your stuff?

    The reality is we each have a low probability of that happening but almost no one can afford to pay for it alone. This is why insurance exists. Much like flood or car insurance, you have to either enforce participation or just allow people who don't have the money to die in the gutter.

    I would prefer to think we do not live in a society that lets our people die in the gutter.

  • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Friday June 08, 2012 @10:56AM (#40257303)

    Then perhaps healthcare shouldn't be a public burden. Why should anyone pay for anyone else's life choices?

    Just to be sure we're clear -- are you saying you want to live somewhere the emergency rooms turn people away?

    The options are two: remove public healthcare or remove the choices.

    I'm not really sure that it's fair to characterize "ensuring that the costs of the choices have would-be externalities incorporated rather than passed on to others" as "removing the choices". Does make a better sound bite, though.

  • by ArcherB (796902) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:00AM (#40257383) Journal

    "The rest of us" shouldn't have to pay for anybody's choices. How about everybody pays for their own healthcare expenses? Gosh, what a concept!

    Tell me how well that works out for you when you have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer treatment out of pocket.

    We have insurance to spread the risk, not to encourage people to take stupid risks and make intentionally bad choices.

    If everyone paid their own way, cancer treatments wouldn't cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The reason health care is so expensive is because the patient is not the one paying for it. This means that the health care providers may charge whatever they want. When insurance companies try to limit what they will pay for procedures, everyone that was charging less will now charge more. The end result is the maximum the insurance companies will pay becomes the minimum providers will charge.

  • by Rei (128717) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:02AM (#40257403) Homepage

    Written better than I could have. Clap, clap.

    Most of the natural "good for you" chemicals are that way from pure chance anyway. Those plant-based alkaloids and glycosides are generally there to poison predators, deter infestations, and a whole host of other things that probably don't concern you. But they're designed to be biologically active in animals, affecting some system or another, and when you're not the target species such effects may work out for the good or the bad.

    Just like "artificial" chemicals, "natural" chemicals can be mutagenic, teratogenic, carcinogenic, and of course, just outright toxic. They can have immediate effects only or they can bioaccumulate. And not all of them are just "either immediate bad effects or little effects down the road". Some are really insidious with huge poisoning effects but only after a delay. I had thought that alpha-amantin was bad in that it can take up to 24 hours after ingestion to show signs - far too late to pump your stomach before it destroys your internal organs and kills you. But I read about another deadly mushroom toxin (forget the name or the group of mushrooms that it belongs to) which can take several weeks or even months after you eat it before it starts showing (ultimately fatal) symptoms. A really crazy one is Paxillus involutus. You can eat the mushroom for years with no effects. But it has a small chance at any point in time of causing your immune system to start attacking its own red blood cells and kill you. My favorite from the world of plants is the creosote bush. It not only has developed a super-fast, near-surface root system which soaks up water from the surrounding soil fast enough to keep competitors from germinating, it also poisons the soil around it with a compound designed to attack the Burro Bush. Scorched earth tactics from the plant world ;) Oh, and yeah, it's poisonous to people too, organ damage and all that.

    Alle Ding' sind Gift, und nichts ohn' Gift; allein die Dosis macht, daß ein Ding kein Gift ist..

  • by Bengie (1121981) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:03AM (#40257427)
    Minor variances in what you eat doesn't make a huge difference. It's when you consume a lot of one type of thing. Soda here and there is fine, chugging 8 MountainDews a day is not healthy.

    To have a requirement to "NOT ACTIVELY KILL YOURSELF" is quite different than "this is what you have to eat".
  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:05AM (#40257449)

    So because rising taxes don't stop all smokers the tax is specious?

    I think your argument against it is either misguided or foolish. No one thinks it will stop all smokers. All it needs to do is pay for their treatment and it is already a huge win. If it also gets some people to quit, that is just gravy.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:09AM (#40257519)

    Ok, then actually, we need to turn things around and tax people who try to live longer. No, seriously, the big cost in healthcare is end of life care. It is when you are old and everything just starts going wrong, particularly when you start suffering from mental problems like dementia. THAT'S what really costs. A guy who dies at 60 of a heart attack from being obese? Saved everyone a ton of money. Yes, during his life he cost more than someone who was in very good health, but by not living in to his 80s he saved a ton of money net.

    This is all never mind retirement pay. It would be easy to fix SS if most people started dying before they needed to collect it. It could just pay out for disability, and for the rare retirement.

    So if you want the taxes to align with the costs, then healthy living is what is going to be taxed. Those that do things that would lead to them living the longest will pay the highest taxes because they are the ones who are likely to cost the most.

    If you don't like that idea because you are making the "right" choices, then maybe you need to rethink your premise. Seems to me like people want to "punish" people who they perceive to make the wrong choice, rather than set up something actually based on economics.

    So some research, we know what the costs are in healthcare and it is that damn old age and end of life care that pushes it through the roof.

  • by Pope (17780) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:16AM (#40257655)

    Funny how smoking increased dramatically in Ontario when the price of a pack dropped significantly in the early 2000s due to a drop in the combined federal and provincial excise taxes, after years of increases and high retail costs.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:17AM (#40257669)

    The EU is not going broke as one big nation. The poor nations that were always poor nations are going broke.

    It would be like making a NAU and then being surprised when Mexico ends up broke. Then blaming that on whatever your team does not like.

  • by Freddybear (1805256) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:18AM (#40257689)

    Yeah, right, tell that to my doctor, whose partnership practice joined up with Prima because of all the overhead of dealing with Medicare, Medicaid and all the other government paperwork that he had to file in order to get paid.

  • by jythie (914043) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:19AM (#40257705)
    The parents are making them fat to catch sales and save money.

    This cut to the heart of why such a tax actually makes economic (and capitalistic) sense at a state level. The cost of these sugary/fattening products is artificially low due to taxpayer money being funneled into the industry at a federal level. Since the farm lobby is too powerful to get that cut it makes sense for states to balance things out and bring such food items at least part of the way back to their real cost.
  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:25AM (#40257797)

    It wasn't the tax that reduced smoking.
    It was education campaigns showing blackened lungs, plus the fact smoking is simply not fashionable anymore. People used to smoke because it was "cool", but that's not the case anymore. It had NOTHING to do with the imposition of the tax. Correlation is not causation.

  • by Freddybear (1805256) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:26AM (#40257815)

    Those were not always poor nations. They got poor because their governments went for major populist handouts like "free" health care.

  • by CptNerd (455084) <adiseker@lexonia.net> on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:31AM (#40257875) Homepage

    That's the final recourse of demagogues everywhere. When any amount of reduction in government is proposed, the demagogues scream "So you don't want any government at all!" This is exceedingly childish, just like small children who throw a tantrum when they can't have everything they want. They are unable to understand limits and refuse to acknowledge "shades of gray" when it comes to government control. For them, like for spoiled children, it's all or nothing.

  • by Shadow99_1 (86250) <theshadow99@@@gmail...com> on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:32AM (#40257901)

    I've known at least four people who drink 8+ high calorie/high sugar/high caffine drinks per day and they are as thin as rails. Yet I work out, drink 95% water, and try my best to eat healthy and I'm the one with 'extra' pounds. So I think you and alot of other people are not looking enough at biological factors and deciding it is all in the foods consumed.

  • by Bengie (1121981) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:39AM (#40258013)
    You're not paying for your own healthcare, you're also paying for others. When the hospital has to spend $20k on someone, and that person doesn't have insurance, the hospital has to eat the loss. Wait.. wait.. loss? They're a private business, they'd go under. Ahh, here we go, they jack up the prices for everyone who can afford health-care.

    Guess what is causing health-care prices to go up? People who can't afford preventative measures have to come in once it's critical. On average, that costs even more. It's lose lose. Not only do your prices go up, but the poor get worse treatment.

    Ignoring corruption and waste(very real issue), public healthcare would reduce the cost of healthcare by catching preventable issues before they cost more money. We need a baseline public healthcare with most everything else as elective. Then let private insurance cover the difference. I'm sure people middle-class workers would love to have insurance with better coverage, and that's where private companies come in.
  • by _LORAX_ (4790) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:43AM (#40258067) Homepage

    The US already has a publicly funded healthcare system that can not refuse patients, it's called the ER. The reason why healthcare rates are skyrocketing is not because of additional use by policy holders, but because of skyrocketing costs at hospitals and other covered facilities that have to make up for their losses on indigent and poor that use their facilities as primary care. Also, because it's not real primary care, they do not have the benefit of preventative care and regular screening.

  • by Atzanteol (99067) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:51AM (#40258183) Homepage

    We didn't have cancer in earlier times? How early? If you go back far enough then it's probably because we died of "other things" (starvation, infection, communicable diseases, etc.). It's not like we lived forever in some fanciful past free of cancer.

  • by digitalsolo (1175321) on Friday June 08, 2012 @11:58AM (#40258307) Homepage
    I work in a hospital system and we do provide for care and regular screening for the poor/indigent. Many of them CHOOSE not to utilize this.

    It's certainly not like this everywhere (we are a large not-for-profit system), but saying that they do not have that option available at all is certainly not true. There are also a couple of free clinics with quality doctors that provide free check-ups and basic care in the community as well. This is in a city of about 315k people, for whatever it's worth.
  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday June 08, 2012 @12:01PM (#40258345) Homepage Journal
    We shouldn't be using taxation to try to control behavior of people.

    It should only be used as needed for funding the government and its mandated responsibilities.

  • by stevew (4845) on Friday June 08, 2012 @12:04PM (#40258393) Journal

    Of course you do - because you think that it is okay for the state to take other people's money. In my book taxation = theft at gun point. Now there is a proper place for government to function, and someone has to pay for it, but when they take money from one to give to another because of some social engineering that someone is trying to accomplish, I call that theft.

    You assume that the money is used to pay for treatment - HAH! Just like the Gas Tax in California pays for the great roads.

    Arguing that correlation equals causation is fallacious. As others have said, along with myself - there are other causes beyond just the price.

    The problem is - what will be next - whenever some twit bureaucrat decides he doesn't like something, our freedoms are infringed. This week it's cigarettes because everyone dislikes smokers, next week it's sugared drinks because everyone hates fat people, well next week maybe it'll be skinny people or bald headed people, or people of a certain skin color that takes the bureaucrat's fancy.

  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday June 08, 2012 @12:05PM (#40258397) Journal

    So because rising taxes don't stop all smokers the tax is specious?

    I think your argument against it is either misguided or foolish. No one thinks it will stop all smokers. All it needs to do is pay for their treatment and it is already a huge win. If it also gets some people to quit, that is just gravy.

    It also happens to be a handy way to tax the shit out of the poor without specifically saying that it's a tax (as rich folk generally don't smoke).

    As someone who does smoke, I have an request, given the whole 'tax smokes to pay for treatment' rationale : when can I expect the Social Security Administration to give me my share of the retirement take as a lump sum, as statistically I'm expected to die way before all you non-smoking folks (in spite of having scores of relatives who have lived into their 90's, and done so minus the need for this supposed excessive health care, etc)?

  • by Surt (22457) on Friday June 08, 2012 @12:13PM (#40258543) Homepage Journal

    You know those educational campaigns were funded by the tax, right?

  • by TFAFalcon (1839122) on Friday June 08, 2012 @12:14PM (#40258551)

    The first statement asks that everyone should pay for their own healthcare. So if a person who has no money goes to an emergency room, they are going to be told to go away. What's so hard to understand about that?

  • by Surt (22457) on Friday June 08, 2012 @12:15PM (#40258563) Homepage Journal

    How about funding the mandated responsibility to provide emergency and ongoing healthcare for obese poor people?

  • by TFAFalcon (1839122) on Friday June 08, 2012 @12:24PM (#40258753)

    It's not the healthcare that is destroying the EU. It's the handouts to banks and other corporations.

  • by orzetto (545509) on Friday June 08, 2012 @01:19PM (#40259631)

    My country has free health care (well, you pay something, max $350 a year, but only if you can afford it and beyond that it's free), and it's no "populist handout", it is a conquest of civilisation as much as the abolition of slavery, parliamentary democracy and the right to strike.

    Our unemployment is below 4%, the GDP per capita is second only to Luxembourg, and we did not freak out last year when we had a terrorist attack that, adjusting for proportions, was double the size of 9/11. Oh yeah, that and we have socialists in the government.

    Curiously, I am originally from another European country, that has been going downhill for a couple of decades now, and a lot of political corruption cases there are connected with the gradually more and more privatised health-care sector. Not that the public sector was perfect, but at least doctors did not put you through useless surgery to make more money before.

  • by DriedClexler (814907) on Friday June 08, 2012 @01:44PM (#40260017)

    They might have been funded by about 1% of the cigarette tax revenues, sure, but the rest is usually diverted to a (more) general fund.

  • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:18PM (#40260471)

    Many would argue that the cost of care is skyrocketing, not because of caring for people who can't pay, but because nobody has to directly pay the cost of care. Your doctor sees something, and its a 1% chance of being bad. So he orders a test.. You say great, what a fabulous doctor. However, someone has to pay the $15k for that test. If YOU had to pay it out of your pocket, would you think a bit on it? thats a ton of money for a very, very small chance of something being bad. In fact, when is the last time you knew someone who asked the doctor how much something costs?

    Calling healthcare 'insurance' is a bit silly.. if my car insurance covered all gas, repairs, accidents (as many at-fault incidents as I needed) payments, etc.. You can bet the cost of car insurance would skyrocket too..

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