Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Even Better Than the Real Thing

I grew up during the 1980's. I would later learn that this was a time of war - the Cold War, the Iran-Iraq War, the Lebanon War, but back then I only knew the Cola Wars between Coca Cola and Pepsi. And while the Cola Wars may have ended, with Coke going on to become one of the most widely recognized brands worldwide, the number of casualties continues to grow as the American public's waistlines expand and grow with increased consumption of empty liquid calories.

I am one of the lucky survivors; I don't like soda.When I was eight or nine I had the flu and stayed home from school, slurping chicken soup and noodles. After a day or two I got bored of this and decided to introduce some sweet variety into my diet. I went straight for Coca Cola and chocolate ice cream, but my immune system was in overdrive, affecting my sense of smell and taste and these favorite foods tasted awful. Eventually I learned to once again enjoy chocolate ice cream, but had developed a lifelong aversion to Coke. Over the years I would on rare occasion drink diet soda, but for the most part I lost my desire for soda before the age of ten. Today it doesn't even cross my mind to buy it for guests. The proposed soda tax, then, would not affect my life at all. I'm going to talk about it anyway.

The issue first attracted my attention last year when I was visiting New York and noticed the anti-soda ad campaigns. Mayor Bloomberg's health crusades had already changed the face of New York in so many ways. First he banned smoking in bars, which not only reduced secondhand smoke but saved New Yorkers countless dollars on dry cleaning bills (if dry cleaners were unionized they might have fought this proposal). Then he banned the use of trans fats in restaurants. Finally, he launched ad campaigns against soda citywide and proposed that the state impose a tax on soda - an idea that is being taken seriously by Governor Patterson.

There are many sides to this debate, but here's how I see it: not everyone who drinks soda will become obese and diabetic just like not everyone who smokes will develop lung cancer or emphysema. The arguments then for obesity, diabetes, rising health care costs, etc may not be universally applicable. However, we can all agree that soda has no nutritional value whatsoever. It should therefore be a luxury - an item that you can purchase if you enjoy it, albeit at a higher cost, with the additional tax money funding an improved health care system. Foods that we need in order to subsist and live healthfully should be more affordable, not less, than cans of soda that temporarily quench our thirst but leave us hungry for actual nutrients. When a can of Coke is cheaper than a piece of fruit, it's time to reassess our food system. I hope that one day this will mean that quality fruits and vegetables, free of chemical toxins, can be available for less. Until then, we should be willing to pay more for soda.


  1. What a great post! I agree that luxury food items such as soda and candy should be taxed at a higher percentage. I also feel that the government should stop subsidizing farmers to grow corn so it wont be so cheap to produce soda with high fructose corn syrup in the first place! Here is to tax credits for broccoli shoppers and growers!

  2. I agree! Effective results will ultimately require legislative change and a different subsidy system. Til then people should be willing to pay more for, or ideally forego, the cola.

  3. i don't drink soda at all - there is absolutely no benefit to it and there are plenty of possible negatives. our food system is so messed up - people are economically encouraged to eat unhealthy, processed foods that are full of additives and chemicals instead of fresh, whole foods. its amazing to me how far this has gone...