We are fat.
This is according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reveals 63 percent of adult Americans have a body mass index in excess of 25.0, and are therefore overweight.
And the fact that obesity in American children has tripled in the past 30 years.
Or a report from the office of the US Surgeon General that revealed obesity is responsible for 300,000 deaths annually.
With such damning evidence of gluttony, it seems that someone should propose a radical change to the status quo to bring the nation’s health out of its free-falling trajectory. Something so groundbreaking that it would be able to single-handedly whip our poor, huddled, tired and obese masses into shape. If such a calling seems to be a bit too ambitious, perhaps something a bit smaller and pragmatic would suffice as well.
So, short of signing every household in the country up for a Jack LaLanne power juicer and hot yoga sessions, what could possibly help to thin out the obesity problem in America?
A soda tax.
Maybe it’s not the most astonishing option, but the intended purpose is still to try to help rescue a nation verging on extreme obesity.
In the most recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, a group of leading health experts proposes a tax on sugary soft drinks, and a higher one in states that already have existing policies, hoping that higher prices will make families second-guess their grocery lists and ultimately reduce the amount of soda consumed.
The proposal has the support of leading physicians, who hope that the predicted drop-off in soda consumption will also increase the demand for healthier alternatives.
In related news, it appears that leading physicians also moonlight as economists during the recession.
Naturally, those in the soda industry are none too happy with this hypothetical proposal, although the CDC says it does not have any immediate plans to enact such a policy. Some have even gone as far as to label the proposal and any similar policies as being “socialist,” with the government overstepping its boundaries in telling the public what to eat and drink.
But while the tax seems to be very narrow-minded in its attempts to single out one particular product, it does not seem to be unfounded. After all, removing one harmful component of a poor diet is better than keeping it around. For proof, one need not look any further than Trojan alumnus and NFL running back LenDale White, who attributes his dramatic offseason weight loss solely to the removal of tequila from his diet.
Clearly, the researchers involved with the study appear to think that if you want to hurt someone, it’s best to hit them where it hurts the most — in their wallet.
Unfortunately for these same researchers, the majority of the population appears unable to feel their wallets from underneath their excess body mass.
For starters, the proposed tax would only apply to sugary sodas and not their diet beverage counterparts. Meaning, the soda tax would not include all sodas, but only the sodas that are bad for you. This sounds logical up until the point that it’s revealed that the study only focused on sugary sodas; diet sodas could very well be nearly as bad as their full-bodied alternatives. Thus, a sugary soda tax encourages families to stock up on diet sodas, which may turn out to be just marginally better. It doesn’t seem that the effort put into the tax would justify the minimal benefits of the switch from regular to diet.
Also, it doesn’t appear that the price of soda itself will have so great of an impact on the demand anyway — sales seem to be doing fine on campus despite the fact that soda prices fluctuate between the various retail locations and vending machines on campus. In a land of excess that features $6 cups of coffee, $40 a day parking and $1,500 portable Facebook machines, the increased price of soda would come as an afterthought.
Overall, it seems that in the realm of indulgence, the well-intentioned message of measures such as the proposed soda tax falls on deaf ears.
An alcohol tax has done little to curb the sale of 30-packs of beer used to furnish fraternity beer pong leagues across The Row, much in the same way a food tax has yet to yield the consumption of Chanos’ heaping plate of carne asada fries on any given Thursday night. And this comes despite the fact that at 8.25 percent, California carries the highest state sales tax in the country. Furthermore, the law that prevents drivers from using their cell phones while driving is seen as more of an inconvenience than, say, a practical way to curb the number of driving fatalities.
Why then, is it safe for anyone to assume that a soda tax would have any better of a chance at success?
Maybe the real issue is that the government is getting fat off the taxes from the vices we’ve turned to in order to cope with the various stressors in life. If that’s the case, we have no room to gripe, as we’ve only eaten ourselves into a monetary hole.
Regardless, attempts to help guide the nutritional decisions of the American public through higher soda taxes seem to be pointless, fizzling out and falling flat.
Soojin Yoon is junior majoring in public relations. His column, “Boy Meets Word,” runs Thursdays.