The Sweet Tax: A Public Health Argument and not Business Profits
San Francisco proposition E intended to impose a $0.02 per ounce tax on non-alcoholic liquid beverages, which contain 25 calories or more per 12 fluid ounces (Liao et al.14) The originators of the policy, Scott Wiener and Eric Mar referred to the successful implementation of the sugar tax in Mexico. The allocation of revenue from sugar tax in San Francisco would be as follows according to Office of the Controller in San Francisco:
- 35 percent would go to the Department of Public Health and the Public Utilities Commission for use in chronic disease prevention and public education campaigns and grants for community-based organizations that support physical activity and health programs
- 25 percent to Recreation and Parks Departments
- 40 percent to San Francisco unified school district for student nutrition services; nutrition education; after-school nutrition programs; expansion and improvement of physical education and after-school physical activity programs (Williams 10)
The proposal to introduce sugary beverage tax would significantly lead to decline in consumption of sugar. It would be a great effort towards alleviating chronic illness. Scientists have given strong evidence for added sugar as a cause for obesity. Obesity heightens the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The overwhelming amounts of money being spent on managing chronic illnesses need a public health intervention. According to a CDC report on chronic diseases and health promotion, more than $ 176 billion was spent in 2012 on treating diabetes only (American Diabetes Association n. p). Consequently, about $70 billion loss in productivity resulted from absenteeism in work. Also, being overweight has been linked to about sixty chronic illnesses among them being the already highly prevalent diabetes. Furthermore, nearly half of Americans are suffering from a chronic illness, which cost nearly three-quarter of the healthcare budget.
It is estimated that about a third of Americans are obese, and diabetes has reached an epidemic level (Center for Disease Control and Prevention n. p). The rate of obesity has been tippling among children and doubled in adults. According to Karen Hanretty, Californians for Food and Beverage Choice, there has been an upward trend in prevalence of obesity and diabetes among children. It is regrettable that overconsumption of sugar has been contributing to the high prevalence of the chronic illnesses. A tax on sugar would cause children to purchase less sugary products. In Mexico it was estimated to have decreased consumption of soda by 10 percent from 2013 to 2014 (Knight n. p).
Measures to protect our population from unhealthy consumption habits have been met with great opposition. Thus, no matter the results of a ballot on introduction of the sugar tax in San Francisco, the American public health system has failed in endeavors to alleviate preventable dietetic diseases. A public health system intervention would play a big role in preventing and controlling obesity, diabetes, and other diseases related with body-weight. Politics and greed have also marred well-intended policies that would control overconsumption through discouraging consumption. In the sugar tax debate, giant companies, with large market share of the sugary stuff such as Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, and PepsiCo have dominated the debate. According to time magazine about $10 millions have been used on campaigns against the sugar law by the giant beverage companies.
It would be prudent for various stakeholders in the public health system to not only focus only in clinical treatment, but also in preventive measures. Thus, it would be right to use the revenue collected in expanding education programs to promote healthy concepts. According to a calculation by Urban Institute in New York, $16 billion can be saved every year, if community-based health programs were used to educate on prevention. Research by National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity indicates that $14.1 billion is spent annually on health care due to obesity related complications. It would be a large battle to enforce labeling of sugary substances as insidious. However, lowering consumption would contribute to improving public health. For the sake of our future generations, we need to act now to control our healthcare budget. As we spend trillions of money on healthcare, we need to stop the suicidal habits. Is it business first or health first, and who will be working if we all get sick!? Beverage businesses as stakeholders in public health have been an impediment to the public health policy. They forget that having a healthy workforce would also be to their benefit. The benefits may be less to the profits they earn by selling the killer sugar, but for moral reasons they need to support public health interventions.
American Diabetes Association. “Direct and Indirect Costs of Diabetes in the United States.” American Diabetes Association. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-statistics/>
Center for Disease Control. “Overweight and Obesity: Adult Obesity Facts.” 9 September 2014. Web. 5 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html>
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Overweight and Obesity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/trend/index.htm>
Knight, Heather. “S.F. soda tax backers sweet on Mexico’s sugar-fighting success.” SFGATE.11 Oct. 2014. Web. 5 Nov. 2014. <http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/S-F-soda-tax-proponents-salute-Mexico-as-model-5815356.php>
Liao, Jay., Egan, Ted., and Khan, Asim. “Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages to Fund Food and Health Programs.” City and County of San Francisco, Office of the Controller- Office of Economic Analysis. 14 Jul. 2014. Web. 5 Nov. 2014.. < http://sfcontroller.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=5492>
Taylor, Keith. “Factsheet: Obesity in America.” American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery June 2010. Web. 5 Nov. 2014. http://asmbs.org/wp/uploads/2014/07/asmbs_fs_obesity.pdf
Williams, Brad. “Impacts of San Francisco’s Proposed Tax on Sugar Sweetened Beverages.”n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2014.< http://www.affordablesf.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/SanFran-Report-Sugar-Bev-Tax.pdf>
National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research.” Childhood Obesity in the United States.” Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nccor.org/downloads/ChildhoodObesity_020509.pdf>