Is the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax Improving our Health or Just Taking Our Money?

The government has a lot of power in the obesity epidemic, unfortunately based on their current and past actions, I do not see much dedication to a solution.  They have the ability to regulate different fillers, hormones, and antibiotic use that is present in our current “industrial” farming techniques.  They also have the ability to control the products available to the consumers.  For example, currently in my hometown of Chicago, there is a huge controversy over the sugar-sweetened beverage tax that was just passed.  Although they are using this to increase state money, they are claiming this will decrease the consumption of these beverages and in turn improve the health of the people.

But why sugar sweetened beverages?  It has been proven in study after study that there is a very positive correlation between consumption of sugar sweetened beverages and body weight in children as well as adults.  With the government knowing this for as long as we have known this correlation, it is time they finally do something about it.

I feel, it is not the consumers who should have to pay more money for the things they enjoy, so I do not support the taxing whether it is by ounce, how much sugar is added or just a set percentage per purchase as being talked a lot about in the Chicagoland area currently.  Some consumers may only purchase and consume them in moderation so should not be “punished” for that through increased taxes.  I believe we should be going after the companies producing these products.

There are several ways that can be executed.  The government can increase the taxes the companies need to pay based off the nutritional value of what they are producing.  Referring to an article by Brownell, I thought it was a very ingenious idea to use extra tax money on nutrition education and nutrition supplemental programs.  I firmly believe many Americans simply do not understand juice is bad for you since they think it is fruit!  However, when making juice, you removing the fiber from the fruit.  Removing this makes a concentrated sugar beverage that is digested very quickly, spiking your blood glucose and leaving you with a crash.  Taxing companies who are making these products could generate extra funding for teaching Americans through advertisements or media what is actually in their foods or beverages.

Going along with that we can also use the money to improve packaging.  If consumers read the ingredient label that says “grape juice from concentrate” they have no idea what that means and having the explanation right there for them, may help them make a better decision to drink it or not.  Same goes for reading how many grams of sugar are in the beverage.  What does it mean when it says carbohydrate with sugars and fiber underneath?  For some it may be understood, but to the average American or a child, they may think something is nutritionally adequate when it is not at all.

I also really think advertisements are huge in this industry.  If the government regulated what kids are seeing, they may not want or even recognize these sugary drinks.  I wanted to see what current companies thought of their advertisements and see if they knew the harmful effects it brings on children specifically.  I looked at the Pepsi corporate website and found some very fascinating avenues they are beginning to make with their advertisement and marketing team.  In 2012, they chose to stop advertising to audiences that were made up of more than 35% children under 12.  To the audiences that contain a majority of children under 12, they follow the PepsiCo guidelines, which only advertises products that meet specific science based nutrition criteria, but unfortunately this criteria was not specified.  This was all implemented in 2013.  In 2014, they enhanced these advertising techniques to include outdoor activity, interactive games, and cinema and product placement.   This is an example of a company that understands the negative impact their product can have when consumed in excess and also can admit that advertising to children can be consequential.  They have a set plan in place to help improve this marketing to children and although it may be gradual, it is definitely a step in the right direction, and an example for similar companies to do the same.

So in conclusion, I believe the government’s role in this problem is to take responsibility and finally execute a plan to fix it.  Making laws that better regulate the food label so average people can understand it, would be a huge accomplishment.  I also think the advertisements in the stores should be regulated and should contain educational information so consumers can make informed decisions on their choices.  And lastly, the hundreds of food commercials on TV need to be decreased by the government, specifically on child networks and specifically of foods high in sugar and fat.

 

 

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