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The article titled “Chicago’s Soda Tax is Repealed,” published by The Economist on October 13th, 2017, celebrates the repeal of the infamous soda tax, which received large amounts of criticism from both the soft drink lobby and the regular customers, who were upset with how their soft drinks suddenly went up in price. The price increases were quite significant, ranging from 10% to 50%, depending on the amount of added sugary sweeteners (Terruso 2017).
This caused a panic among the populace of Illinois, some of the more industrious citizens driving to other states in order to stock up on soft drinks. While the article seems to lend support to the bold claim that the tax was a “beverage taxes are really a money grab that has nothing to do with public health,” the issues regarding the tax run deeper than being an attempt to clog an 1.8 billion hole in the budget (“Chicago’s Soda Tax” 2017).
The main issue with sugary drinks is closely related to America’s ongoing obesity problem. The author cites this and even shows some statistics to back up the claim, but never lends any narrative credibility to the healthcare statement. On the other hand, the preference for the narrative of the soft drink lobby. The title itself describes the author’s position perfectly – the second line under the article says the repeal is “A big victory for makers of sweet drinks,” but does not mention that it is a loss for the pro-health care lobby (“Chicago’s Soda Tax” 2017).
The sad truth is that sugary drinks are directly responsible for the obesity problem currently plaguing the USA. While the authors mention that sugary drinks provide empty calories and that 20 to 23% of all America’s children are obese, it is not the whole story (“Chicago’s Soda Tax” 2017). Various researchers have been alarmed with increasing rates of obesity ever since the beginning of the 21st century, and all of them point out towards sugary drinks as a prominent factor. Actual obesity numbers for US adults are even higher – 30 to 32% (Caprio 2013).
In many cases, the foundation for long-term weight problems was laid out during youth and adolescence. Caprio (2013) states that the calories in soft drinks are dangerous because the body does not register them as food. A person who consumes hundreds of calories via sugary drinks does not feel sated, which is an effective path to overeating. In addition, caffeine and sugar, which are present in many soft drinks, actually cause dehydration instead of quenching thirst, contrary to popular advertisements (Caprio 2013).
Lastly, the author fails to mention that the so-called soda drink tax is not an American invention. Similar laws have been passed in many countries, such as the UK, France, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Hungary, and others (Forster 2017). According to a meta-analysis performed by Escobar et al. (2013), taxation of sugary drinks leads to a decrease in demand for them as well as to a decrease in the prevalence of overweightness and obesity.
The article correctly pinpoints the weaknesses of the tax in its current form. One of the major complaints is considering fruit juices, which also contain added sugar (“Chicago’s Soda Tax” 2017). Other concerns revolving around the Soda tax are related to the economic prosperity and needs of the customers. As the population of Illinois demonstrated, they do not need the government to tell them what is healthy and what is not, defending their freedom of choice, even if the said choice is poor from a healthcare perspective. Soft drink producers, on the other hand, are unhappy with profits decline from the artificial price increase. Such an intervention is against the laws of the free market.
On the one hand, there is a clear health benefit to the tax, even in its current and imperfect form. On the other hand, however, is the profitability of large corporate entities and the freedom of choice of many American citizens. According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report (2017), more than 29 million Americans have diabetes, which is often associated with and caused by obesity and overweightness. At the same time, statistics show that the primary consumers of sugary drinks come from impoverished backgrounds.
In other words, these people lead an unhealthy way of life and then demand the government to pay for their healthcare. In my opinion, if the government provides for these peoples’ insurance, covering more than 50% of its initial costs, then it has a say in what kind of lifestyle they get to live.
Caprio, Sonia. 2012. “Calories from Soft Drinks – Do They Matter?” New England Journal of Medicine 367: 1462-1463.
“Chicago’s Soda Tax is Repealed.” 2017. The Economist. Web.
Escobar, Maria Cabrera, Lennert Veerman, Stephen Tollman, Melanie Bertram, and Karen Hofman. 2013. “Evidence that a Tax on Sugar Sweetened Beverages Reduces the Obesity Rate: a Meta-Analysis.” BMC Public Health 13: 1072.
Forster, Katie. 2017. “Budget 2017: New Sugar Tax Confirmed by Philip Hammond in Fight to Combat Rising Obesity.” Independent. Web.
“National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017.” 2017. CDC. Web.
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Terruso, Julia. 2017. “Philly Finds New Tax not so Sweet.” The Inquirer. Web.