Non-news item of the day: soda is terrible for you.
Not only has it been linked to type-2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and a slew of other health problems, when you take a sip of soda you're essentially drinking liquified sugar. There have recently been moves to implement a soda tax in the United States, which has drinkers of soda feeling very attacked by the government.
In Mexico, one of the biggest consumers of Coca-Cola, a 10% soda tax was implemented; in one year, reports found that soda consumption had fallen 12%. This was major news in a world where 184,000 deaths were caused by increased rates of type-2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, all linked to sugary drinks. The move in the United States is to increase this 10% tax even higher, pushing people who choose to drink soda to fork over more money. As undeniably healthy of an initiative this is, does the government have the right to police and regulate the way you legally choose to destroy your body?
This argument runs deeper than soda, stretching to other things like alcohol and tobacco products. Although all these products are legally sold and available, they've been regulated by the government so we all don't go insane and start drinking and chain smoking to our heart's content. Back in the 1940s, cigarette prevalence began to grow with fervent advertising, including the army's rations actually containing cigarettes. Although the first study by Dr. Alton Ochsner and Michael DeBakey linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer was published in 1946, the push back against tobacco wouldn't begin to take hold for decades later.
Now, it is hard to drive four blocks without seeing a billboard describing the harmful effects of smoking. There is push back on where cigarettes can be advertised and the prices of packs have been taxed to hell depending on which city and state you live in. Although we all know how terrible cigarettes are (including how bad they are for those around us), it is still the choice of many to continue smoking.
However, studies have reported that since the 1964 definitive paper by the Surgeon General was published linking lung cancer to cigarette smoking, there have been a reported 8 million lives saved. This shows a marked trend in how the government is able to step in and steer the general opinion through advertising and taxation to move people towards a healthier lifestyle, much like the soda tax in Mexico saved people from heart failure.
The government has a clear tendency to tax the vices of America, and most would view this as opportunistic. Why wouldn't they tax the things they know people are going to continue to buy at a higher rate? In the minds of most of the public, this is a way for them to gain funds by profiting off the addictions of America.
On the other side of the argument, perhaps it is a way of our government protecting us from ourselves, making prices higher in order to make us think twice about these vices that are fun and delicious, but wreak havoc on our bodies. Some argue that these taxes put a greater distance between the middle class, the lower class and the upper class, but perhaps they are also acting as a reminder that these products are not where we should be funneling our money.
When it comes down to it, the sad reality is that the general public either doesn't care or still doesn't know the harmful effects that these items have on our bodies. Although it is truly a disgrace that the government allows the sale of these items at all, the fact of the matter is that we need someone controlling our intake of these toxic chemicals. Cigarettes and soda are not sure-fire killers of people, but they definitely aren't doing the general well-being of the public any favors.
If the government wanted to truly enact change, they would make steps towards completely banning these products; although that does seep into the discussion of governments hyper-policing our lives. A soda tax would make people who need to cut back on sugary drinks think twice about the purchase of them, much like the insane taxes and price hikes of tobacco products has diminished numbers of people who would otherwise be heavy smokers.
This issue isn't completely about the public being able to decide what to do with their bodies, but it is about the fact that we as a human race are bound to self-destruct when left to our own devices. These taxes put us in a vice when it comes to how we self-soothe, but perhaps that is exactly the vice we need to be in for our own good.