Soda tax: A sin tax?

By: Dr. Philip S. Chua November 15,2015 - 10:59 PM

FOR the past 15 years, I have been writing about the unhealthy effects of soft drinks on every consumer, especially on children. More and more evidences from multiple clinical studies have shown that these beverages, in all its forms, are toxic to our body. I named it “liquid candy.” Almost as bad are sweetened fruits juices and beverages made from drink powders or concentrates. Natural fruits are the better option.

Last week, I received the information below from HealthJustice, “a public health think-tank that aims to bridge the gap between health and law to empower Filipinos to make healthy choices… it includes doctors, lawyers and economists who have been recognized for their services in both the private and public sector.”

A recipient of the Bloomberg Award for Global Tobacco Control, HealthJustice announced it welcomed the approval of the “soda tax” bill in the ways and means committee of the House of Representatives. Its Managing Director, Atty. Irene Reyes, stated this act “is definitely a step in the right direction.” WHO statistics show about 33 percent of Filipinos are obese and childhood obesity is escalating from one percent in 1989 to five percent in 2013. She pointed out that “it does not help that soft drinks are still very cheap and accessible especially to children in school.”

Under this, P10 tax will be imposed for every liter of sugar-sweetened beverage, to increase by 4 percent every year.

This is similar in spirit and objective to the sin tax on tobacco and alcohol for a healthier society. The noble intention of this economic disincentive is obvious and could save millions of lives, especially among the younger generation.

Instead of spending extra for these “sin taxes,” won’t it be wiser to minimize or stay away from anything that would damage our DNA and shorten our life?

Toxic liquid candy

These unhealthy beverages, soft drinks being the most toxic to our DNA, increase by 48 percent the risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, a cluster that makes up Metabolic Syndrome. Also, obese people have increased risk for developing cancer and diabetics have a propensity to develop cardiovascular illnesses. All these diseases are costing the government and society, as a whole, billions annually. The Soda Tax is expected to generate revenues for health, education and local governments, fifty percent going to the national treasury for health promotion programs of the Department of Health; Department of Education; Food and Nutrition Research Institute; Food and Drug Administration; and Bureau of Internal Revenue.

The beverage to be taxed is defined as a “non-alcoholic beverage that contains caloric sweeteners, added sugar, or artificial/non-caloric sweetener [that] may be in liquid or solid mixture, syrup, or concentrates that are added to water or other liquids to make a drink…. Carbonated drinks (soft drinks), tea, coffee, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, and drinks of a similar kind in powder form are considered sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Short of legally banning these unhealthy drinks, which act would be unconstitutional and most impractical, imposing tax on their consumption is a more prudent option to protect the health and well-being of the people. Our indifference and unhealthy habits and behavior, which unwittingly set our life on a self-destruct, slow-suicide mode, lead to the development of diseases that impose severe hardship, not only on ourselves and our family, but on society and the government as well. When any of us develops any of these chronic illnesses or gets sick due to our undisciplined lifestyle, we are not the only victim of our action and self-induced illness. The ripple-effect is more extensive than we think.

Corporate irresponsibility

In the United States, the University of Colorado School of Medicine recently returned a One Million Dollar gift from Coca-Cola “after it was revealed that the money had been used to establish an advocacy group that downplayed the link between soft drinks and obesity.” This lack of corporate moral responsibility, which borders on health fraud, is a grave disservice to society.

Other recipients of donations from Coca Cola, namely the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the country’s largest group of dietitians, have likewise severed their ties with the soft drink company.

Sweet “poison”

The prevalence of obesity among Americans doubled between 1977 to 2001 and this trend was paralleled by a doubling of the consumption of soft drinks. An increase in the body mass index (BMI) of 0.24 kg/meter square was found among children for each (ONE!) soft drink they consumed. Studies on adults (50,000 female nurses in one study) revealed that drinkers of even one can of soft drink led to weight gain and increased blood sugar among diabetics.

One study reported this interesting finding: “One four-week experiment compared a 450 calorie/day supplement of sugar-sweetened soft drinks to a 450 calorie/day supplement of jelly beans. The jelly bean supplement did not lead to weight gain, but the soft drink supplement did. The likely reason for the difference in weight gain is that people who consumed the jelly beans lowered their caloric intake at subsequent meals while people who consumed soft drinks did not. Thus, the low levels of satiety provided by sugar-sweetened soft drinks may explain their association with obesity. That is, people who consume calories in sugar-sweetened beverages may fail to adequately reduce their intake of calories from other sources. Indeed, people consume more total calories in meals and on days when they are given sugar-sweetened beverages than when they are given artificially-sweetened beverage or water.”

Now that we have evidence-based data, let us make the right choice for ourselves, and especially for our children, who depend on our wisdom for their future.

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TAGS: diabetes, fruit juice, health, juice, soda, soft drinks, sugar

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