HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >


Is soda the new tobacco?


In their critics’ eyes, producers of sugar-sweetened drinks are acting a lot like the tobacco industry of old: marketing heavily to children, claiming their products are healthy or at worst benign, and lobbying to prevent change. The industry says there are critical differences: in moderate quantities soda isn’t harmful, nor is it addictive.

The problem is that at roughly 50 gallons per person per year, our consumption of soda, not to mention other sugar-sweetened beverages, is far from moderate, and appears to be an important factor in the rise in childhood obesity.

Read more at...

  1. I'm sorry... This just seems to be the height of a ridiculous suggestion to me.

    People eat sugar in anything and everything: juice, pancakes, apple sauce, gosh just about every food I can think of...

    Maybe parents need to teach their children how to eat, rather than blaming the fact that some restaurants or whatever might serve pie, or cake or Swedish fish...

    People, even kids, need to take responsibility for themselves, more so because then they can learn good habits for when they grow up.

    1. Mark Bittman is getting in over his head as an erstwhile food policy-tax policy wonk.

      I am not much of a sugar soda drinker (I normally drink seltzer and iced tea without sugar); I don't like tons of sweet in my mouth. (I should just note that 50 gallons is 400 cups per year, about 9 oz a day.)

      I fully support getting soda out of schools. A soda tax, however, will not have much public support and pushing for it will therefore be a huge huge distraction in the realm of food policy progress. The science to support the tax is not univocal, and the proponents have very tellingly failed to consider unintended consequences: when policy makers consider only the nobility of their intentions and the possible good of their proposals, it's typically a huge warning flag that a proposal is ill-considered. I see too much religious energy and self-regard in the nutritional warriors for their (and our) own good.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Karl S

        I don't want to quibble about math, but by my calculation, 50 gallons per year would come out to 17.5 ounces per day (1 gal = 128 oz x 50= 6400 oz / 365 days = 17.53 oz per day.) Even that amount doesn't sound so excessive, but it is an average. I'm sure there are plenty of people drinking double & triple that amount.

        I find myself debating the wisdom & the validity of gov't or social pressure to try to change people's eating habits. As a 'Hound, I certainly enjoy food and am not above sinful indulgence from time to time. As I age, however, I become more concerned with the health repercussions (both personal and national health) of many of the foods found in the American diet.

        As Americans, we cherish the value of personal freedom, but if people do not respond to appeals to eat healthier, does gov't have the right, or the obligation, to take stronger measures? One can easily make a convincing argument that the measures taken against smoking were downright un-American, but I can't say I'm unhappy with the result.

        With so much commercial advertising pushing products of questionable value, should we not have a counter force advocating for the other side? Education alone does not seem to be effective, health insurance costs are escalating rapidly. I sure don't want big brother looking over my shoulder when I'm out at a restaurant celebrating good eating, but what balance can we strike to address public health while preserving individual freedom?

        1. re: Rmis32

          I take the math correction.

          But just because the current situation is not working does not meant the government will be an effective remedy worth the costs. The First Amendment offers a generous zone of freedom to corporate free speech (and, as we learned last month, we have a SCOTUS tha appears keen on enlarging, not narrowing, that zone); believe it or not, we have yet to fully litigate at the SCOTUS level how much regulation of corporate speech for public health can be tolerated under the First Amendment (let's just say I expect the barriers have been raised significantly).

          The moral of the story: just because we are unhappy doesn't mean there's a better result in reality-land out there.

          * * *

          Now, it would be great to get rid of a variety of agricultural subsidies. Let's start with sugar cane. But if we get rid of that, we thereby incentivize the use of corn sweeteners. OK, let's get rid of corn subsidies: good luck, because there are critical filibuster-votes on both sides of the Senatorial aisle from corn-producting states. OK, let's get rid of equal suffrage in the Senate. Well, we have to deal with the Guarantee Clause of the Constitiution. How about having cloture votes weighted by population? Only if we can get 67 senators to agree to a rule change. Ah yes, the joy of democracy instead of the Rule of Wise Men. No one ever said democracy was an exercise in wisdom.

          For that matter, for food policy advocates to ignore the political and scientific realities is an exercise in silliness, not wisdom. We don't need a Climategate to arise among food policy advocates.

          1. re: Karl S

            "Now, it would be great to get rid of a variety of agricultural subsidies. Let's start with sugar cane. But if we get rid of that, we thereby incentivize the use of corn sweeteners."

            Not true. The sugar subsidies are only part of the story, it's the import quotas that kill us on sugar. The world market price of sugar has been well below that of US sugar since the restrictions have been in place. ADM and the other corn growers actively lobbied for import limits on sugar in the early 80's and were then able to undercut prices spurring the shift by soda companies to corn syrup.

            So what we really need to do is allow for sugar to be priced at realistic world market levels.

            1. re: ferret

              I consider the import quota a subsidy, albeit indirect. The thing is, if you let the price of sugar rise to its natural level, buyers will simply switch to subsidized corn (as they have in large part already; this will further the impulse).

              1. re: Karl S

                You're missing the point, the restrictions on imports RAISE the price of sugar. Chicago, where I live, used to be a mecca of candy manufacturing. Slowly but surely many of the candymakers moved out, including Brach's, complaining of inflated sugar pricing. Brach's moved to Mexico where it was able to buy cheap world market sugar (yes, they saved on labor costs, too, but staying competetive in a world market where sugar candies could enter the US at lower price points was the key.

      2. Rmis32's remarks, quite innocently, I suspect, play right into the hands of those that think that they know better what is good for them than the people do: "Education alone does not seem to be effective, insurance costs are escalating rapidly. I don't want big brother looking over my shoulder when I'm out at a restaurant celebrating good eating, BUT what balance can we strike . . . ? [emphasis added] (In other words, a little bit of Big Brother looking over your shoulder would be okay!)

        To put it another way, since the people don't know what is good for themselves, those who do know what is good for the people, will force it on them. If we start taxing, or limiting, or banning sugar, will taxing, limiting, or banning fat be far behind? How about banning alcohol? Cigar smoking?

        Why not tax foods produced with fertilizers or pesticides to encourage farmers to farm without them? After all, the fertilizers and pesticides certainly put some percentage of people in the hospital, etc., etc., etc. There is no end to it, folks. It is what we lawyers call "the slippery slope" and what laymen call "the camel's nose under the wall of the tent." Banning something "a little bit" is like being a little bit pregnant. It just leads to more and more.

        The rationale used more and more is that behavior X increases health insurance costs. Since we all pay for health insurance costs directly or indirectly, the government, on behalf of the people who pay for these increased health insurance costs, has the right to regulate what we eat, what we drink, what we smoke . . . etc.

        Again, where does it stop? In George Orwell's "1984" the unhappy inhabitants of Oceania were required to exercise every morning for their own good, whether they wanted to or not.

        All of this seems a bit far afield from what I normally discuss on Chowhound's boards and yet, still relevant. Now, I'm going home to drink some champagne and have some pate d' foi gras on on a salty cracker before they ban the champagne for the sugar and alcohol in it, the pate for the fat in it, and the cracker for the salt in it. Saints preserve us!

        2 Replies
        1. re: gfr1111

          No one is talking about banning anything. I guess it's ok w/ you that every year health insurance gets costlier while benefits go down, because it's not a tax. It's a payment to a private insurer using the money to hire a bureaucrat whose function is to find a way to deny your claim.
          The reality is that gov't has always influenced the way we eat, Subsidies on corn, for instance, guarantee that we'll find high fructose corn syrup in so many of our food products. Perhaps stopping those subsidies, which come from our taxes, would be a better way to address the issue. How bad does the explosion in obesity & diabetes rates have to get before something is done to dis-incentivize bad eating habits?

          1. re: Rmis32

            It has to get bad enough to overcome filibusters on both sides of the aisle. We are nowhere near that point. Far far from it. Corn producers are a much huger industry than tobacco ever was.

        2. Soda does not lead to obesity.

          Overeating leads to obesity.

          Instead of taxing soda, why not just impose a fat tax?

          Let's say we want to get really Big Brother-ish, then cut out the middle man and impose a 1% tax for each point a person's BMI is above, say, 30.

          If your BMI is a 35 then the IRS collects an additional 5% on your AGI on top of your standard personal income tax rate.

          That's a national diet plan that would actually have some bite (pun intended).

          38 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            "Soda does not lead to obesity.
            Overeating leads to obesity."

            True, and guns don't kill people, gaping holes thru vital organs kill people. The challenge is to find an effective policy to minimize the damage, without being overly oppressive.

            1. re: Rmis32

              And you have consider that you might well not ever find such a balance. Such a balance is not always available to be found.

              1. re: Rmis32

                Gaping holes in vital organs do not kill people. People kill people.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  "Gaping holes in vital organs do not kill people."

                  You seem to be having a hard time with causality. Or confusing "kill" with "murder."

                  Likewise, to say that soda does not cause obesity is untrue. Overeating on rare occasions (a couple times a year I pig out at a Chinese buffet) does not cause obesity either. But either overindulgence in food in general or specifically our culture's overindulgence in soft drinks certainly does cause obesity. We're talking 50 gallons per year per person of what is essentially sugar water. I can cite studies if you want, but it really shouldn't be necessary.

                  Whether or not it's the government's job, responsibility, or even their right to legislate nutrition (or gun safety) to its subjects is another matter, and it worries me that our government seems to feel so at ease acting in such a paternalistic manner. But to pretend there is no causal link or that some vague American Philosophy of Personal Responsibility trumps a known causal link is absurd.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    The bottom line is that excess calories causes obesity. It matters little whether those calories come in the form of sodas or fruits. If you eat too many apples for example and never burn off those excess calories then you'll gain weight. Conversely, if all you were to consume were 2000 calories of sugar water or soda and burned it off in a day's activities then you won't gain excess weight.

                    Look, to say that soda causes obesity is sort of like saying eating fish causes mercury poisoning. That's sloppy science and rhetoric. Mercury causes mercury poisoning and on the case of eating fish it's the mercury in the fish that's causing the mercury poisoning.

                    While not endorsing this idea and not even saying it would pass 1st Amendment analysis, it would be more efficient to just impose a tax on soda advertisements than to impose a tax on soda.

                    But even that only addresses an indirect cause because while you can discourage the sale and consumption of soda, you haven't done anything to discourage people from overconsumption. Limit sodas and people who want to indulge their sweet tooth will simply find another outlet like donuts or candy or whatever else suits their fancy.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      My issue is that there is no need to discuss this as a hypothetical because Americans as a group DO overindulge in soda and DO suffer from high rates of obesity partially as a consequence (of course there are other causes of American obesity as well). That is empirically true while it is not empirically true to my knowledge that Americans are obese in part from eating too many apples.

                      There is nothing scientifically incorrect about saying that contaminated fish causes mercury poisoning. Or even that fish causes mercury poisoning, so long as it is understood that this is by means of mercury that contaminates some fish. Whether it would be more efficient and effective to decontaminate effected fish or just tell people not to eat fish (in general? by species? by species versus location?) is a viable subject for scientific examination.

                      Stating that it would be more efficient to tax soda advertisements strikes me as highly speculative and quite possible untrue.

                      "Limit sodas and people who want to indulge their sweet tooth will simply find another outlet like donuts or candy or whatever else suits their fancy." This is yet another statement that sounds plausible but is not well documented - it may in fact not be true at all. Another good area for scientific study.

                      It is often true that the cheapest and most convenient foods are also the least healthy. This would appear to lead to a less than healthy population, especially in those of meager means. Imposing a tax on some of these cheap unhealthy foods/drinks might well be an effective way to combat this phenomenon, which still is not to say that our government should. (Also of note - many of these cheap unhealthy foods enjoy enormous subsidies from our government.)

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        Part of the problem with soda is that it is so convenient and readily available. So even if we were to make it more expensive by taxing it I'm not convinced that it will actually decrease demand in any meaningful manner.

                        While in the abstract the elasticity of demand for soda might be quite high (or steep) so that an incremental change in price will result in a disproportionately large change in demand, the mere fact that soda is so convenient a beverage changes that dynamic.

                        Let's say a 16oz can of soda is now $0.75 and you increase the price to 0.85 would that actually decrease demand and consumption on any meaningful manner? A person who wants a soda and walks up to a vending machine and sees that his old soda that used to be 0.75 is now 0.85 will probably just shrug and pony up the extra dime without so much as a second thought. And that dime is actually more than a 10% tax, which is considerably higher than what most are contemplating.

                        As far as I can surmise a soda tax will only enrich the coffers of government and not make much of a meaningful dent in our obesity rates.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          All good points. In truth, I could not accurately predict what a tax on soda would do to its demand. Taxes on cigarettes (very large taxes, btw) have corresponded with lowered demand, but that was along with a campaign of public education, much negative propaganda, and laws limiting usage and sales.

                          At the same time, using money raised in taxes on soda directly for public health measures to fight obesity and malnutrition would at least appear to have benefits to public health, regardless of whether demand drops.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Water is just as convenient and available.

                            1. re: fame da lupo

                              "Water is just as convenient and available"

                              Not in public buildings in the city of Toronto. They banned water vending machines because someone got their knickers in a knot over recycling the bottles.

                          2. re: cowboyardee

                            You have to repeal human nature, which is to choose the maximum amount of calories for the least amount of cost (both monetary and non-monetary). Thus it has ever been for the poor. Part of this is a class issue, and we pretend there are not class issues in the US. But the pact with the poor in this country is that we will ensure they are stuck without good benefits in low-paying jobs and with high costs to certain aspects of participating in the broader economy, in return for which we ensure that food remains relatively cheap (there are people who go hungry in this country, I hasten to add, even with this bargain). You decide to remove the cheap calories without addressing the other issues, you have a worse problem on your hands.

                            1. re: Karl S

                              So true indeed

                              A family of 4 living on 200k a year will hardly be impacted by a soda tax. While a family of 4 living on 35k will see a disproportionate impact on such a tax.

                              Regardless of whether such a tax will work or whether you agree with it? A soda tax like all flat taxes will result in a larger impact on the poor than the wealthy

                              1. re: Karl S

                                I actually agree with pretty much everything you said. While I am not always comfortable with how American government legislates health issues, I am downright appalled at how the US treats its poor. The matter is a bit tangential for a Chowhound discussion though, so I was trying not to wade into it.

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  People don't drink soda because it's cheap calories, they drink it because its sweet.

                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                the difference is water does not make a body feel full. the body reacts to soda as if it was calorieless water and does not abate hunger at all, while dumping all these excess calories into the system, unfelt

                          3. re: Rmis32

                            But the problem is the more people get told what to do, the more they accept being told what to do.

                            We have socialized medicine in Canada. When it was introduced in the 60's, opponents claimed that it would lead to oppressive government intrusion in our lives. "They'll make kids wear helmets on bikes!" the opponents said, and the proponents laughed at them, or accused them of scare-mongering. Of course, now they have to wear helmets, not only to ride bikes, but also full-face helmets with heavy screens to play hockey. The latter have saved a lot of head injuries and broken teeth, but because they're so heavy, there's been an increase in kids who suffered serious neck and back injuries because they weren't able to keep their heads up when they fell into the boards.

                            Now we have people in Toronto demanding a fat tax, demanding a ban on trans fats, and demanding a ban on soda machines on any public property (like, say, a hockey rink or a soccer field), all in the name of reducing sky rocketing health care costs.

                            And, of course, the mother of them all is the ban on tobacco smoking virtually anywhere in Toronto but the open street. You can't smoke near the entrance of buildings, all restaurant smoking was banned years ago (even in specially ventilated and isolated rooms), and now you can't even smoke on an outdoor bar patio, or in your car if kids are with you, all on the basis of spurious second hand smoke statistics, and again, reducing healthcare costs.

                            I'm sorry; every time, I trot out the "slippery slope" argument, people tell me it's a logical fallacy, and then I just keep looking at all the examples that abound. Look at flying - airport metal detectors were OK, X-raying baggage was OK, but nearly stripping to your underwear, and with the new scanners, actually virtually stripping you? Nothing on your lap - no books, no laptops - for the last two hours of your flight? When's it going to end?

                            That's why I'm opposed to soda bans and taxes, fat bans and taxes. What's next? Someone's going to decide that burgers are bad for you because of the charred meat, fat, and e coli scares, so they'll ban burgers to save on healthcare costs? Someone's going to decide dairy fats are bad for you, so it's only skim milk from now on, no full fat ice creams, and only skim milk cheese? (Ontario already forbids farmers from making raw milk cheeses, which people in next door Quebec seem to eat merrily with no problems.) Now, I know someone's going to respond and say "This is ridiculous. No one would ever go that far." Except they have in other areas, and are agitating in food. Toronto, one of the ten largest cities in North America, has the absolute WORST street food because our petty bureaucrats can't come to grips with the concept that safe and decent food can be served from a cart.

                            I think the old way is better - crime and punishment. You decide to eat until you're the size of whale - that's your crime, and your punishment is most likely an early death. Trying to save people from themselves by any method other than education just leads to oppression that inevitably gets more stringent as time goes by.

                            1. re: FrankD

                              Here here. Every time I've railed against something as being a slippery slope, people have laughed at me. Every time I'll take some absurd "what will be next?" stance and people will say, "that'll NEVER happen!" and yet it does.

                              1. re: FrankD

                                Thank you Frank. Finally, a voice of reason.

                                1. re: FrankD

                                  But the way it is now, everybody is paying for the whale-sized people, not just them.

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    And they're paying for people who drive, people who like to skydive, people who smoke, people who get hit by busses, people who have bad genetics, people who .....

                                    1. re: jgg13

                                      People who work at banks, people who work at auto companies. people who text or phone while they drive, people who don't get auto insurance....

                                      Ah, people. So much moral hazard. If you want to get rid of moral hazard, get rid of yourself first.

                                  2. re: FrankD

                                    Frank D,
                                    You and I agree completely. See my February 15, 2010 rant above. And I have the same reaction from people as you do when I trot out the 'slippery slope" argument. They don't believe me and then, later, my "ridiculous" example comes to pass!

                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                  But then you have the problem that BMI is only truly useful on a macro scale (e.g. measuring the BMI of a population) and not so useful on an individual scale. If you wanted to go that route you'd have to do bodyfat %age by hydrostatic testing, and even that's not perfect.

                                  1. re: jgg13

                                    It ain't gonna happen. Don't sweat the details of an illusory proposal.

                                    1. re: Karl S

                                      I wouldn't be so sure. Taxing junk food wasn't going to happen 10 years ago and now it is being seriously considered. BMI surcharges have been seriously discussed in regards to health/life insurance (and I'd raise the same argument for that, regarding uselessness of BMI).

                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        BMI surcharges would boomerang, by discouraging obese people from buying insurance, and thus going naked and going to the ER all the time. A stupid idea inconsistent with the goal.

                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          The problem is that I don't believe for a second that ideas inconsistent with goals are out of the question. If anything, I tend to believe that such stupid ideas are more likely as those same stupid ideas always seem easier to implement and easier to rabble rouse for.

                                          1. re: jgg13

                                            Except that a lot of the rabble are overweight. A small mercy, perhaps?

                                        2. re: jgg13

                                          "Taxing junk food wasn't going to happen 10 years ago "

                                          Speak for yourself. It happened over ten years ago in Canada. Most food is untaxed, but things like chocolate bars, soda, and chips are. I'm not going to comment on restaurant meals, because all of those are taxed, whether it's McD's or the best steakhouse.

                                      2. re: jgg13

                                        True enough about BMI. I was only raising it to demonstrate a possible paradigm of how an obesity tax might look like - not saying that a solution using BMI would actually be practical.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          Unfortunately, any tax on being overweight is going to be administered via BMI :(

                                          1. re: jgg13

                                            It's not administrable. Just the fraud possibilities alone would involve Orwellian control measures to counter effectively. The costs in bureaucratic terms would eat up the erstwhile benefits.There would also be a constitutional challenge that it would exceed the scope of the amendment that allows for taxation of income (the federal government's taxation powers are not unlimited).

                                            1. re: Karl S

                                              Agree with you, Karl.

                                              I only used BMI as an example for purposes of discussion.

                                              Not only would BMI fail on a practical level, it would be inherently flawed in targeting ONLY those individuals that are truly obese. As a tool for ferreting out the obese it would be over inclusive. Many athletes -- who are bulky and muscular, but not obese or fat -- would have very high BMI numbers.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Over the last 10 years I've gone from having an overweight BMI for good reasons to having an overweight BMI for bad reasons. Either way I'd get nailed by such a tax :)

                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                  Again just for purposes of discussion, one way to make BMI work is to have it as a rebuttable presumption.

                                                  In other words, if your BMI is considered too high, you can have the option to show that you are not obese or overweight, by using a combo of things like body fat %, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, etc.

                                                  Still not perfect (e.g., high blood pressure can be hereditary and not indicative of weight), but better than just relying exclusively on BMI.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    Good points. Of course, one of the pushbacks given to the anti-BMI pushback I gave is that having a high BMI for the so-called good reasons is still not all that good. If you look at the camp that argues for low body weight, caloric restrictions, etc as the key to longevity - they view BMI for the musculature reasons as being nearly as bad as the obesity reasons. This gets in to the matter that I bring up in a post below this one, that 'healthy' implies different things to different people - to some it would be more ideal to be a robust person who might not live as long, while others would view overall longevity as the #1 motivator behind health.

                                                    1. re: jgg13

                                                      Totally agree.

                                                      But lets look at it this way. A person who is 5'10" and muscular and has a 35 BMI (a person with a football player physique for example) is still "healthier" than a person who is 5'10" and has the same 35 BMI but has 40% body fat.

                                                      If you ask the folks who are in the camp who believe in calorie-restrictive diets and ultra-low body weights, I think even they would agree that the muscular 35 BMI person is "healthier" than the fat 35 BMI person.

                                                      It's all relative I suppose.

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                        The people I was thinking of wouldn't argue that the football player is overall better than captain cheetos, but their argument is that it is still overall unhealthy. This was in terms of using BMI to base health & life insurance costs btw.

                                    2. My issue with all of this is that 10-20 years ago, I kept hearing supporters of anti-tobacco initiatives talk about how it was all about second hand smoke. I'd say, "be careful of what you wish for, as they're coming for your food and such next." Bollocks, they'd say - that's personal, but what you do to others count!

                                      Now look at where we are

                                      1. Soft drinks are an easy target, making it potentially easier to pass taxes as a source of revenue for government.
                                        But when soft drinks are removed from vending machines in schools and offices, they're often replaced with fruit juices that have just as many calories and as much sugar as the soft drinks that they replaced. So it's fructose, rather than sucrose or whatever, but bodies react the same way, as any diabetic can tell you.
                                        There is no way that you could get laws taxing fruit juices passed, even on caloric and sugar content grounds.

                                        57 Replies
                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          Soft drinks and fruit juices are not nutritionally equal (though, yes, most diabetics should avoid both).

                                          For one fruit juices often have vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that soft drinks typically lack. If you're thinking 'No matter, I take a multivitamin," there is a lot of evidence that taking one's vitamins in pill form is far less beneficial and efficient than absorbing them from food and drinks in which they naturally occur.

                                          Also, more speculatively, there are animal studies showing that high intakes of corn syrup along when combined with a high fat diet lead to more weight gain and lower metabolism than a diet equally high in other sugars combined with the same high fat diet. To be fair, there is no scientific consensus on this matter as of yet.

                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                            My comment was about the politics and hypocrisy, not nutrition. Under the guise of fighting obesity, particularly childhood obesity, it's easy to go after soft drinks, and target them as a source of government revenue. No one can argue that they're "good" for you, so let's tax something we can easily demonize.
                                            But to say that fruit juices are better if you're combating obesity is silly. Many of them, as well as some flavored milks, and favored milk-substitute beverages like soy milk, have just as many calories and as much sugar/HFCS as soft drinks.
                                            Some fruit juices do have more vitamins, but many are actually "juice drinks," containing only a small percentage of actual juice in a lot of water augmented with HFCS or sugar.
                                            Even flavored waters and sports drinks are calorie laden and often contain sugar or HFCS.
                                            Unless kids (and adults) are drinking plain water, the "obesity" argument is deeply flawed.

                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                              "Many of them, as well as some flavored milks, and favored milk-substitute beverages like soy milk, have just as many calories and as much sugar/HFCS as soft drinks."

                                              Actually, I overheard a boy talking to his dad at a small grocery about a month ago. The boy wanted a soft drink, the dad insisted "No, it has too much sugar". I was so tempted to go over, grab a soft drink (355 ml) and a soft drink (500 ml), and then ask him to read the labels and see which one had more sugar.

                                              But I decided embarrassing the dad in front of his son was a worse thing to do, so I chickened out.

                                              1. re: FrankD

                                                And you were correct to do so. Anyone who dares to try to enlighten anyone else unbidden about how bad such person's food choices are is morally grossly obese, as it were.

                                            2. re: cowboyardee

                                              A calorie is a calorie.

                                              If I drink a can of soda that has 100 calories and then replace it with a "fruit juice" that has a 100 calories, I'm still going to gain weight if I don't burn off those excess 100 calories.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                The same logic would apply to eating 100 calories of spinach just as it would to drinking 100 calories of fruit juice or soft drinks.

                                                I'm not sure where we got the notion that calories are all that matter, or that obesity is the only health/nutrition matter at hand here, but such an outlook is pretty shortsighted.

                                                And to MakingSense - I was assuming (wrongly perhaps) that 'juice drinks' were grouped along with soft drinks as non-nutritive beverages. I certainly wouldn't consider purple-flavored sugar water and grape juice to be the same. Taking in fewer empty calories and eating more nutrient-dense foods has long been associated with lower obesity and improved health in general - this isn't fringe science I'm pushing here. Most (pure) juices are certainly more nutrient dense than most soft drinks.

                                                As I said above in other comments, I'm not convinced that the government should be policing our health, or using our health as an excuse to levy hefty taxes on popular goods. But that is a separate issue from whether soft drinks constitute a public health problem in this country.

                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  Many, if not most, commonly marketed fruit juices are not 100% juice. For example, Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail is only 27% juice and contains either "cane or beet sugar," according to the label.

                                                  Eating "more" of any food, even if it's "nutrient dense," can lead to obesity of you ignore the caloric load. Ultimately, "calories ARE all that matter" in whether people are obese.
                                                  The challenge is using your caloric budget to get the maximum nutrition within that allotment. That's why wasting it on soft drinks rather than a piece of fruit or good bread is foolish.
                                                  But that is still no reason to single out a particular food for taxation - unless you're doing it for political reasons.

                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                    cowboyardee's point about nutrient density stands though if you consider the issue to be greater than body mass. that's the real issue here, and across the country, the terms 'good for you', 'healthy', etc all mean different things to different people - and by all means sometimes peoples goals for what "healthy" means to them will completely contradict what other people's goals are. The reality is that there isn't one overarching notion of healthiness - there are various independent factors that one might want to maximize, but often that comes at a cost of other factors.

                                                    So in this case, if the key topic of discussion is obesity & body mass, well yes, a Kcal is a Kcal and the body obeys the laws of thermodynamics.

                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                      "Ultimately, "calories ARE all that matter" in whether people are obese."

                                                      I understand your point. But it's not really correct. Or at least, it's misleading to think of obesity only in those terms.

                                                      Different foods or the ways and times in which you eat also affect your metabolism - this is probably why people who eat breakfast within something like 30 minutes of waking have lower incidence of obesity than those who don't. Foods that increase satiety are known to limit a persons daily caloric intake (which makes sense - if you're fuller, you eat less). This is the rationale behind the atkins diet (which is another can of worms, but does in fact work for losing weight). Nutrient dense foods, as a trend (but not a rule) tend to increase satiety more than nutrient poor foods.

                                                      At any rate, soda does not do much to help satiety. To be fair, I haven't seen any data that fruit juices do either.

                                                      And I still don't think obesity is the only good measure of how (un)healthy soda (or whatever) is to people. And while it's entirely debatable whether or how the government should intervene, make no mistake that soda is in fact a public health problem in this country.

                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                        "which is another can of worms, but does in fact work for losing weight"

                                                        As long as the person doesn't buy into the marketing gimmick angle of the atkins diet and realizes that the body is still bound by the laws of thermodynamics.

                                                        But yes, ketogenic diets as a rule will blunt one's appetite.

                                                        "soda does not do much to help satiety. To be fair, I haven't seen any data that fruit juices do either."

                                                        If anything, soda would be better due to the caffeine content.

                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                          "Different foods or the ways and times in which you eat also affect your metabolism - this is probably why people who eat breakfast within something like 30 minutes of waking have lower incidence of obesity than those who don't."

                                                          I believe the scientific evidence for statements like that are all based on observation studies, right?

                                                          In other words, there's been no evidence that eating breakfast (or timing your meals in a particular fashion) actually causes changes in metabolism.

                                                          For example, the notion that breakfast somehow either increases metabolism or helps with caloric intake the rest of the day is based merely on observing those individuals who eat breakfast versus those that do not eat breakfast. But that fails to control for a variety of factors, incl. the most obvious being that perhaps people who eat breakfast tend to care more about their diet and health?

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            All good points. Truth is, I'm not sure. It seems that the overwhelming majority of the evidence for this comes from observational studies. And you're right that these don't draw a strong causal link between breakfast and lower levels of obesity, just an association (perhaps people who are more active and fit are also hungrier in the morning?).

                                                            A quick search revealed only one study that randomly assigned participants to eat or not eat breakfast. This study also showed that eating breakfast increased weight loss by people who previously skipped breakfast versus a control. But it was only one study with only 52 participants - you can decide for yourself if such a small sample is convincing.
                                                            Here is a pretty decent meta analysis.
                                                            Of course there may be many other applicable studies that I haven't seen.

                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                              By and large, this kind of research often finds what it seeks; there's all sorts of opportunities for confirmation bias to skew how results are interpreted.

                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                "This kind research" means what, exactly?

                                                                "There's all sorts of opportunities for confirmation bias to skew to skew how results are interpreted."

                                                                I agree we should be vigilant in assessing study conclusions for validity. But wouldn't the above statement apply to any research study based on the scientific method? At least the research at hand deals in variables that are fairly easy to objectively measure. Is there some reason the research on this subject specifically would be more biased than most?

                                                          2. re: cowboyardee

                                                            It doesn't matter what you eat, (e.g.grapefruit or Atkins) or when you eat it, (e.g. one meal a day or six,) if you consume more calories than you burn, you'll gain weight.
                                                            There are cultures where people don't eat breakfast or have only coffee, yet they're healthy and not obese. Many people in the US eat breakfast, but still gain weight, because they continue eating all day. It's still the total of what you consume throughout the day.
                                                            Each person's metabolism is different, and so are their individual choices.

                                                            It's possible to assign labels of "healthy" or "unhealthy" to pretty much any food. Red wine, chocolate, meat, eggs, sugar, salt, olive oil, soy, nuts, whatever. Or an ice-cold Coke.
                                                            It's not the food itself, but the abuse of it that gets you. Moderation is key.

                                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                                              "It's not the food itself, but the abuse of it that gets you. Moderation is key."

                                                              In general, we agree on this. But I guess that's the issue I'm trying to point out - soda (which could be fairly harmless as an occasional indulgence) is much abused in the US, elevating it to the level of a health problem. That isn't saying anything special or profound - we have many public health problems.

                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                There are many things that are abused in the US to the "level of a health problem."
                                                                But should the government selectively regulate them by taxation?
                                                                Loud music damages hearing. Should they require governors of some sort on all audio equipment. People with loud neighbors would love that!
                                                                This is a very slippery slope.

                                                          3. re: MakingSense

                                                            Cranberry juice is a misleading example - the pure stuff is incredibly tart, about as drinkable as pure lemon juice. So, like lemonade, it requires quite a bit of sweetener to make it palatable.

                                                            Most fruits served as juice (orange, grapefruit, apple, grape etc) can be drunk in a pure form. Which is not to say that they are always packaged that way - food processors can and do find a way to adulterate anything - but they are at least available as 100% juice, and thus deserve exemption (in that form only) from the proposed soda tax.

                                                            1. re: BobB

                                                              People will always try to find an excuse to exempt something that they approve of from a tax that they want applied to something of which they do not approve.
                                                              Tax the other guy, right?

                                                              Fruit juices are essentially the equal of soft drinks in calories and sugar content (even if the sugar in juices is natural fructose) so they're no different if the point of this exercise is to fight obesity.

                                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                                There are an awful lot of people out there (and even in here) who will dispute your attempt to equate natural fructose and industrial HFCS.

                                                                But I don't have a dog in that fight. All I'm saying is that, as you yourself point out above, "The challenge is using your caloric budget to get the maximum nutrition..." If you're going to drink something sweet, shouldn't it be something (like natural juice) that provides some nutritional value along with all those calories? And isn't that worth encouraging - or conversely, getting back to the point of the proposed law, isn't the consumption of those drinks that are empty calories and nothing but empty calories worth DIScouraging?

                                                                1. re: BobB

                                                                  Politics aside, anything with an "-ose" at the end is a form of sugar.

                                                                  Some are attempting to make the case that one conveyor of sugar is preferable for various reasons that some think have higher merit, and that others of which they disapprove should be discouraged or forbidden. This is an attempt to control the choices and behavior of others by taxation and regulation. It assumes that the powerful know best.

                                                                  Why stop at soft drinks? Why not all candy and desserts? Will they be the next targets of the nannies?

                                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                                    As I say, I'm not getting into the "-ose" wars.

                                                                    Why soft drinks? I think because they're just so quintessentially evil. 100% bad, 0% good. And yes, I'm teasing you. But nutritionally speaking, that is pretty much what they represent, to me and apparently a lot of other people. And the proposed laws (at least here in MA) do not stop at soft drinks, they DO include candy.

                                                                    Although strictly speaking, they do not impose new taxes on these two categories, they simply remove the exemption from the already existing sales tax which these products currently enjoy.

                                                                    1. re: BobB


                                                                      As Chowhounds, or even as regular people, should we always strive to eat those foods that are nutritionally dense? Or, as MakingSense put it above, to use your caloric budget to get the maximum nutrition?

                                                                      If that's our motto, then soda wouldn't be the first thing that should get taxed, nor the only thing. How about white bread?

                                                                      What if I am not overweight but enjoy a nice cold soft drink on a hot summer day? Why should I have to pay more for that experience?

                                                                      And, yes, I understand the whole macro argument that a food sin tax will (in theory) lower obesity rates and (in theory) reduce medical costs for society in whole. But that's alot of assumptions going there, right? One could easily assume (as the tobacco industry did internally) that obesity does not increase medical costs in the long term because fat people die at an early age and never burden the Medicare/Medicaid system as card-carrying AARP members.

                                                                      Just saying ...

                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                        Why do I have to pay the sales tax if I choose to drink a cold beer or glass of wine on that hot summer's day instead of a cold Coke?

                                                                        If you've got to draw the line somewhere on what edible/drinkable products do and do not get subjected to a sales tax, I have no trouble putting nutritionless, calorie-laden soft drinks on the same side as beer.

                                                                        1. re: BobB

                                                                          The other solution is to do away with medical insurance altogether. Just let people do whatever the hell they want, if they can't afford to pay for the consequences they die in the street.

                                                                          That's obviously absurd, but IMO just as absurd as drawing all of these lines just because people get fat and might put a monetary drain on our society.

                                                                          1. re: BobB

                                                                            "I have no trouble putting nutritionless, calorie-laden soft drinks on the same side as beer."


                                                                            Well, I do.

                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                              And obviously we must again agree to disagree. But would you care to explain WHY soda deserves its tax exemption when beer doesn't?

                                                                                1. re: BobB

                                                                                  Soda and beer aren't really apt comparisons.

                                                                                  Beer taxes are in large part to raise revenue and the "sin tax" portion is aimed at reducing consumption b/c alcohol is medically dangerous -- consume too much and you can die.

                                                                                  Sugar, not so much. Even if you assume (incorrectly I might add) that sugar leads to obesity, it is not medically dangerous in the same way that alcohol is.

                                                                                  Plus, you don't have to be 21 (or 18 or whatever) to buy and consume soda. Beer? Yes.

                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                    All taxes are to raise revenue. There is no "beer tax," at least not here where I live, there is just a sales tax, which applies to pretty much everything, with a few exceptions.

                                                                                    I only brought up the comparison between soda and beer because you made a distinction between those who abuse soda and someone like yourself who simply wants "a nice cold soft drink on a hot summer day," thus implying that it would be OK to tax soda if only abusers drank it, but since that's not the case, doing so would punish non-abusive drinkers as well. That's precisely parallel to beer and other alcohol.

                                                                                    As for the age thing - good point! If we required people to be of a certain age before they were allowed to drink soda it could be a great boon for public health. As we all know, kids are inordinately drawn to sweet things, so keeping it out of their hands at a vulnerable age could go a long way toward keep them from becoming sugar junkies, with all the attendant risks of obesity and diabetes.

                                                                                    I look forward to backing your campaign to put this on the ballot!

                                                                                    1. re: BobB

                                                                                      Not true. Not all taxes are to raise revenue. Many sin taxes (e.g. those on tobacco and alcohol) have the singular purpose to control behavior, with the added revenue directed towards public services at the targeted conduct (e.g. stop smoking ads).

                                                                                      You should make no assumption that I would imply that it would ever be OK to tax soda if only abusers drank it.

                                                                                      And again, you make the incorrect assumption that I would be in favor of imposing an age limit for soda. Such a restriction would be silly.

                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                        "you make the incorrect assumption that I would be in favor of imposing an age limit for soda. Such a restriction would be silly."

                                                                                        I'm not making that assumption at all, quite the contrary. I should have put a smiley after it.

                                                                                        And although I do in fact think that such an age limit would be eminently reasonable from a public health point of view, I am grounded enough to realize that it's politically untenable. We must allow parents to screw up - er, I mean raise - their kids as they see fit! And just to be clear, let me add this: ;-)

                                                                                        The implication that you made a distinction between users and abusers of soda I took from this:

                                                                                        "What if I am not overweight but enjoy a nice cold soft drink on a hot summer day? Why should I have to pay more for that experience?"

                                                                                        The inclusion of the words "am not overweight but" changes this from a simple contention to one making a comparison.

                                                                                      2. re: BobB

                                                                                        Taxes are designed to raise revenue, but ips' point about sin taxes hold as well. Many times taxes are managed to be pushed through w/ actual public support because people say it is designed to get people to quit doing something that's supposedly deleterious to society (e.g. cigarette taxes). The problem is that the gov't then starts relying on that money (again, same with cigarette taxes) and a catch-22 develops where they claim they want people to stop behavior X, but they can't afford for that to happen.

                                                                                        1. re: BobB

                                                                                          There are both Federal and State taxes on alcohol including beer in all states. They are built into the shelf price of beer, wine, and spirits because they're taxed at the wholesale level, depending on alcohol content per volume. There is no relationship to price as there is with sales tax.
                                                                                          The Federal tax on beer is $.05 per 12 oz can, or $.02 for small batch brewers.

                                                                                          The Massachusetts excise tax on beer is $1.10/gal for beer.
                                                                                          http://www.marininstitute.org/alcohol... from the Center for Science in the Public Interest
                                                                                          The state excise tax hasn't been raised since 1975, and adjusted for inflation, the state treasury has lost about 75% of the original value of that tax.
                                                                                          The revenue collected per capita from alcohol taxes in MA is $10.21, while the per capita alcohol-related health care expenditure is $144.28.

                                                                                      3. re: BobB

                                                                                        Taxes on alcohol are different. Two Constitutional Amendments among other things. Now there are Federal, State, Country, and local laws and taxes. Most of that has been for reasons other than health, although that factored into some of the Prohibitionists' arguments, and exceptions were made for "medicinal" uses of alcohol during Prohibition. Liquor laws are a wacky patchwork.

                                                                                        Alcohol laws however are all based on alcohol content.
                                                                                        Soft drinks are just another food product. They don't have any more or less sugar than cookies, chocolate milk, many juices, marshmallows, or ice cream. Or a bag of plain sugar. Why should one product be singled out and not the others?

                                                                                        The soft drink tax is a punitive tax because some people disapprove of them. It's a way to control behavior while raising revenue.
                                                                                        If the proponents can demonize a product, it's easier to pass the necessary laws to tax or regulate it - or to outlaw it, just as it was for Prohibition. This is a slippery slope.

                                                                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                          I don't buy the "slippery slope" argument. Usually things get taken just about as far as people in general want them taken, and if they get taken too far one way, the pendulum swings back (viz. Prohibition).

                                                                                          As for taxes being "...a way to control behavior while raising revenue," you're half right. More accurately, they're a way to influence behavior, not control it. That's why, for example, your town or state may give a tax break to a business that wants to open up and create new jobs. I don't have a problem with government using its influence to discourage consumption of junk.

                                                                                          As for why just soda .- there I can agree with you to some extent. All overconsumption of sugar is a problem. But soda is qualitatively different from some of the other sugary items you mention - I don't see large numbers of kids eating multiple 20 oz containers of marshmallows or even ice cream every day the way they do sodas. And if they did substitute chocolate milk at least they'd get some needed calcium.

                                                                                          But maybe rather than taxing sugar (or to be more precise, taking away the exemption it currently enjoys from sales tax), as others have said, we need to stop subsidizing the big sugar producers (in which I include all forms of sugar) and let the product rise to its appropriate free market price. Maybe that alone would be sufficient to reduce its consumption.

                                                                                          1. re: BobB

                                                                                            Government doesn't have "influence." It has the power to dictate through abusive legislation.

                                                                                            One man's "junk" is another man's well-deserved mid-afternoon break from a hard job, so the decision to tax one particular product is arbitrary.
                                                                                            Yes, some kids eat marshmallows but they often consume bags of cookies, several candy bars, or cartons of ice cream bought at convenience stores or eaten at their own homes. They eat boxes of sugary cereals. Added calcium in chocolate milk is irrelevant if it has as much sugar as a soft drink and your aim is to lower sugar consumption.
                                                                                            Taxing only soft drinks is illogical and can only be justified through contorted rationalizations.

                                                                                            The price of sugar is kept artificially high by government regulation. If they got out of the way, eliminated the sugar tariffs, and let the price of sugar in the US compete with world market prices, the price to consumers could drop - if the savings were passed on. Maybe some of the US candy manufacturers who moved to Mexico and Canada for lower priced sugar might move back home. We could have more candy! Unless you decided to tax that too.

                                                                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                              It is worth noting that the US' system of tariffs and subsidies has been extremely protectionist of American sugar and corn (and by extension, corn syrup) industries. These industries are at the heart of our discussion here.

                                                                                              It's ironic the government seeks to tax the industry that buys corn syrup and turns it into a popular product while simultaneously propping up the industry that produces corn syrup in the first place. All this at the expense of our health, our energy policy, our tax dollars, and of truly free trade for our neighboring countries, just to name a few downsides to corn and sugar industry protectionism.

                                                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                Every country has protectionist tax structures to protect their "own" industries. This is really an issue for the WTO not the Chowhound boards.

                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                  "This is really an issue for the WTO not the Chowhound boards."
                                                                                                  As it is directly related to how governmental policy can or should affect our national sugar intake (i.e. the topics of this thread), I disagree. I see no reason not to mention the elephant in the room here.

                                                                                                  "Every country has protectionist tax structures to protect their 'own' industries."
                                                                                                  That it has precedent does not mean our national policy with respect to domestic corn and sugar manufacturers is a good one.

                                                                                                2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                  "It's ironic the government seeks to tax the industry that buys corn syrup and turns it into a popular product while simultaneously propping up the industry that produces corn syrup in the first place. All this at the expense of our health, our energy policy, our tax dollars, and of truly free trade for our neighboring countries, just to name a few downsides to corn and sugar industry protectionism."

                                                                                                  Perhaps, if the gov't dropped the subsidies/ tax breaks on sugar & corn and shifted them to vegetables, kids would be drinking an inexpensive bottle of carrot juice instead of sugar laden sodas.
                                                                                                  I find it funny that a bunch of carrots, which merely needs to be plucked from the ground & dusted off, costs more than a package of Twinkies, which goes through a myriad of processes and has a long list of ingredients & packaging.

                                                                                                  1. re: Rmis32

                                                                                                    And if they were drinking carrot juice, how are you certain that the kids wouldn't still have an obesity problem?

                                                                                                    A calorie is a calorie whether from sucrose or from fructose.

                                                                                                    The obesity problem in America is attributable to consuming too many calories in conjunction with a sedentary lifestyle.

                                                                                                    To truly prevent obesity in kids, it has to start with the parents. Parents need to teach their kids healthy eating habits and the importance of an active lifestyle.

                                                                                                    Armed with that knowledge and upbringing, we would be able to tackle the obesity problem without creating false targets like "soda" or the "sugar industry" or "HFCS" or lack of government oversight, etc.

                                                                                                    Don't have the government do what parents should be doing in the first instance. That not only makes for bad legislation, but unnecessary and inappropriate legislation.

                                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                        "And if they were drinking carrot juice, how are you certain that the kids wouldn't still have an obesity problem?"

                                                                                                        We've already been over this. Carrot juice is, by all current evidence, far healthier than soda. It has more nutrients for the same number of calories.

                                                                                                        Referring everything back to obesity is creating a strawman argument since obesity is far from the only nutrition issue with soda. Furthermore it is probably a fallacious strawman argument as non-diet soda has a higher glycemic index than carrot juice and as such has been associated higher rates of obesity, calorie versus calorie.

                                                                                                        "To truly prevent obesity in kids, it has to start with the parents. Parents need to teach their kids healthy eating habits and the importance of an active lifestyle."

                                                                                                        Unless you propose some plan in which parents are encouraged to take action or better educated about choices to make for their kids, this statement is useless in questioning how government should behave.

                                                                                                        "Armed with that knowledge and upbringing, we would be able to tackle the obesity problem..."


                                                                                                        "...without creating false targets"

                                                                                                        We're talking about your tax dollars and mine propping up an industry whose products do more harm to Americans than the jobs it creates can offset. I'm not proposing bad legislation. The bad legislation has already been written and enacted.

                                                                                                        Let healthy foods compete with unhealthy ones on a fair economic playing field. Once that's done, we can talk about the parents, the parents, the parents.

                                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                          There is a difference between a product being "healthy" and a product leading to obesity.

                                                                                                          I have never made the contention that carrot juice is not "healthier" than soda.

                                                                                                          I'm just saying that there is no evidence suggesting that replacing soda with carrot juice would result in a lower obesity rate among kids.

                                                                                                          Things like this has to start with the parents. You tax soda, and say kids consume less soda. Then start eating more candy, tax candy? Then they start eating more potato chips. Tax chips?

                                                                                                          Where does it end? Eventually you'll end up taxing all foods and you'll end up with no "sin tax" effect.

                                                                                                          What you'll end up with is called a "sales tax" -- which in the long run is regressive, meaning it has a disproportionate impact on the poor than the wealthy.

                                                                                                          As to tax subsidies, there will always be tax subsidies. Flush out those for the sugar industry and another industry will get the cash. It ultimately becomes revenue neutral in the macro scope of things.

                                                                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                            You're right, we've gone over this.

                                                                                                            If one wants to talk about body mass, a calorie is a calorie. The current national boogeyman is "obesity", not "unhealthiness", not "can't run a mile without gassing", not "can't bench press their body weight", but "obesity". By that metric, carrot juice doesn't really help at all.

                                                                                                            One could argue that obesity isn't what we should be caring about, but the fact is that "obesity" is exactly what is driving all of this short sighted legislation via lawmakers who want to seem as if they're doing something and being pushed by concerned parents & individuals who are ignorant.

                                                                                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                            Yes, and wipe out all those stupid laws penalizing murder, robbery, etc.. Any self respecting parent would surely teach their children that these acts are forbidden.

                                                                                            2. re: BobB

                                                                                              Yep, you have no problem at all taxing something that you don't consume and that you think is an icky "nutritionless, calorie-laden" product. Tax the other guys. It's "in their best interest" after all.

                                                                                              You'd probably have a fit if someone proposed to double taxes on beer and wine because they didn't approve of those.
                                                                                              After all, there are estimates that between 8% and 10% of adults in the US are alcoholics or problem drinkers. Alcohol can be a serious threat to health and causes many accidents. It has lots of empty calories, and the only nutrition is from mixers,

                                                                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                I'm not arguing against the tax on beer, I'm just saying that soda deserves the same tax. Not "tax the other guys," tax both guys. What's unfair about that?

                                                                                                1. re: BobB

                                                                                                  Or tax everyone and be done with it.

                                                                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                    That's a fair approach too. But remember, at least where I live (MA) we're not talking about adding a tax on soda (or beer, or anything else). The sales tax already exists. What we're talking about is which items deserve an exemption from said tax.

                                                                                                    (For the record, arguments about whether we should use regressive public funding approaches like sales taxes are interesting too, but not within the purview of Chowhound.)

                                                                                            3. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                              The issue of smokers not being the drag on society that they're made out to be is still something that can be successfully argued.

                                                                                2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                  Agreed. A calorie is a calorie, but my body (which is prone to hypoglycemia) treats sugar vastly different than protein, making particular calorie sources worse for me than others. Hence 100 calories from chicken (or spinach) will act differently on me than 100 calories from soda.

                                                                                  1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                                    Agreed, fame. I have the same reactions. I can eat piles of vegetables, but fruit does me in because of the sugar.
                                                                                    I drink Diet Coke. There are some odd indications that artificial sweeteners may make one crave other carbs or sweets, but nothing definitve. They're just not sugar.

                                                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                      I'm diabetic. I pretty much avoid sugar, except for the occasional cookie (like one a week). But when I was first diagnosed, I had ballooned to 260 lbs. I cut out the obvious stuff - doughnuts, regular soda, etc. - and I lost some weight. But when I went on the "no white food" diet (no white bread, no spuds, no pastas, no rice, etc.), my weight really plummeted. I lost another 50 lbs, and I was never hungry.

                                                                                      Now I'm able to add some of those foods back in moderation, and still keep my weight and blood sugar under control. But 300 calories of a salad with an oil and vinegar dressing, and 300 calories of fries certainly don't affect me the same way. The former keeps my sugar level down; the latter makes it skyrocket.

                                                                                      But that's me; my wife eats fries, and rice, and sweets, and doesn't have my problems. That's why I'm against these "one size fits all" bans. They're usually based on biased science, they're not effective, and they take away my freedom. I'm at a stage now where I can eat potatoes once or twice a week, but baked or boiled, never fries. If I keep working on my weight, maybe I'll be able to sneak a few fries every now and then. But if someone decides fries are bad, BAD!, and bans them, they've made the decision for me. And that's what I'm against. I don't tell other people what to do, and I don't like them telling me what to do.

                                                                                      1. re: FrankD

                                                                                        Pasta doesn't count as "white food." The key idea here is the glycemic load of the food, pasta has a medium load (low-mid 50s), akin to good brown breads.

                                                                                        http://www.glycemicindex.com/ is a great resource. A lot of these things aren't intuitive, e.g. basmati rice has a much lower glycemic load than jasmine. Breads can vary widely, even whole grain stuff.

                                                                                        1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                                          I call shenanigans. I went to the website you suggested, and looked up pastas. As you suggested, they listed a number of pastas with GI's of 45-60. However, they also listed the suggested serving size as "180 g", and "carbs/serving" as around 45 g, give or take. All the pastas seem to be from the UK, Europe, or Australia, so I can't check them.

                                                                                          I looked up "Catelli Smart Pasta", a popular brand in Canada that's branded as a healthy, high fibre, low glycemic pasta. Their nutrition facts were "85 g per serving", and listed "66 carbs per serving". Net of the 9 grams of fibre, that's still 57 carbs/serving, and based on the 180 g serving used by the source you cited, that's about 120 carbs per serving. Then I looked at the garden variety bag of penne I keep around. Again, on an 85 g serving, they list 63 g of carbs, and with much less fibre, net carbs of 60 g per serving, again resulting in about 120 g of carbs/serving using the larger serving size. This is about 3 times the carbs per serving of the GI people.

                                                                                          Either the UK, Europe, and Australia have some strange mutant wheats that have less than 1/3 the carbs of Canadian wheat, or their numbers are pretty suspect.

                                                                          2. Soda the new tobacco? Ridiculous. Worse than ridiculous...the idea is just plain stupid.

                                                                            The problem is not soda, sugar, or any of it's derivatives. The problem is the American tendency to take everything to extremes and super-size everything (and as a result, super-sizing ourselves).
                                                                            The real problem is a lack of moderation and often, a lack of simple common sense.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: The Professor

                                                                              Try getting a 'small' size soda at the movie theater these days... or a 'small' size popcorn. Those don't exist. There is no small. Only less huge.

                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                You could always just not get one.

                                                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                                                  Yes. No duh. That's why I tend to bring my own drink & food. But that's a whole 'nother thread.

                                                                            2. Let's see:

                                                                              Tobacco - an addicting product that causes cancer in those who partake and for those around them
                                                                              Soda (Only those with sugar) - a non-addicting product that contains no cancer causing ingredients, that has contributory effects to obesity and diabetes

                                                                              Soda, the new tobacco? Jfood cannot get on board that one. Should they tax sugar ladened products? Other than Frosted Flakes, no skin off jfood's nose. And if it reduces jfood's health care costs, major benefit to him. Go for it. Jfood all for charging obese people more for their health care, and then we can go after the illegals who monopolize the Emergency Rooms for free and not pay a nickle into the system. and let's not get started on Food Stamp scam and useage.

                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                "Soda (Only those with sugar) - a non-addicting product that contains no cancer causing ingredients, that has contributory effects to obesity and diabetes"

                                                                                Actually, soda does have a mild addictive component. The caffeine alone would ensure with-drawl symptoms upon 'quitting soda'. Sugar has a similar but lesser effect as it is a quick energy source. And research is showing that sugar causes inflammation which often does lead to cancer. So it maybe just as bad as tobacco.

                                                                                OTOH, I believe that folks who get sick from diseases caused by factors that are controllable (overeating) should not be allowed to use public health for obesity related stuff and should pay out of their own pocket. It would be called the "Eat less, move more" clause.

                                                                                1. re: meatnveg

                                                                                  Not all soda has caffeine and it is the caffeine, not the sugar that is the culprit, so we need to separate the discussion.

                                                                                  "And research is showing that sugar causes inflammation which often does lead to cancer. So it maybe just as bad as tobacco" - when it becomes "has shown a causal relationship" to cancer, then we have something to discuss. Likewise, ther is 100% certainty that sitting next to someone who is drinking soda will not have any second hand issues.

                                                                                  To your last point, if they pay into the health care system, then they deserve treatment waaaay before those who have never paid into the system, who view the emergency room as their primary care provider at the expense of those who have contributed. It is the premium that needs adjusting, maybe then people will understand that there is a cause and effect.

                                                                                  1. re: meatnveg

                                                                                    I work in cancer research. I won't claim to be the world's expert or anything, but I can guarantee you that your trying to liken sugar to tobacco in terms of cancer risk would be met with complete derision if I brought it up at work.

                                                                                    1. re: meatnveg

                                                                                      "And research is showing that sugar causes inflammation which often does lead to cancer."


                                                                                      Hold on there mon ami.

                                                                                      Lots and lots of things lead to inflammation. Farmed salmon is highly inflammatory, and so is liver (all kinds), chestnuts, potatoes, yams, etc. The list could go on and on.

                                                                                      By your logic (flawed as it may be), then all those foods would "lead to cancer"?

                                                                                      Gak! Tax them all!

                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                        i concede my point. (it was the salmon and liver that pushed me haha)

                                                                                        1. re: meatnveg

                                                                                          That's why I distinctly avoid the salmon mousse...

                                                                                    2. re: jfood

                                                                                      Even if this was posted sarcastically (i really can't tell), introducing unrelated inflammatory political issues is not helpful to the generally civil debate we are having here.

                                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                        jfood understands your point but would say that he would guess that many people who suffer from obesity would not characterizel many of the commenbts here "civil." Jfood apologizes if his side bar causes you consternation.

                                                                                    3. Lots of goofy logic employed by the New York Times.

                                                                                      Soda, sugar water, whatever should be a personal choice. I prefer Jack Daniels but others prefer Maker's Mark. I don't need government to call my shots.

                                                                                      At the end of the day, obesity is not the issue. Rather, it's the insatiable demand of government for more money. A tax is a tax is a tax. Don't get lost in the rhetoric.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: steve h.

                                                                                        let me repeat, taxation is the issue here. the perception of government-inspired better living through legislation is the rationalization.

                                                                                      2. This thread seems to be going in circles, so we're going to lock it.