New York Gov. David Paterson has proposed a 15 percent tax on non-diet sugary soft drinks in order to generate more revenue. It’s proposed that nearly $400 Million would be generated by the state’s sugary soft drink consumers. It’s being called an “obesity tax” because it will supposedly discourage people from ponying up the extra dough for their sweeter beverages. I understand the reasons for this, especially when you view it in the context of our childhood obesity epidemic. Children and teenagers who consume a large number of soft drinks would possibly think twice if they had to dole out more money. But here’s the catch.
Youth do not just drink sugary beverages because of their taste. Both the major soda companies market their products with advertising budgets in the billions. In 2007, Pepsi and Coca-Cola spent a combined $2 Billion dollars on advertising in the US alone – across all media. And both companies are known to wage ad wars where they enlist the very icons youth look to emulate, rock stars, athletes and pop singers who hawk their product’s lifestyle as being in touch (“Choice of a new generation” anyone?) – enabling a better time.
Making their soda pop more expensive will only partially solve the issue. You also need to make them understand how the advertisements they see everywhere influence their choices, and ultimately their life. This is a basic need if we are truly to address an issue as large as one we’re calling an epidemic.