Remember the 60s?
(I don’t since I didn’t come along until 1970, but I heard they were a trip. Besides, I love Mad Men.)
Anyway, in 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report (“Smoking and Health”) that rocked a nation and signaled the beginning of the end of Big Tobacco’s golden years. But as a nation, we’ve taxed tobacco off and on – and in all its forms – since 1871. (Taxes on booze date all the way back to 1791, showing you how are priorities are aligned.)
Now you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would disagree how much of an impact either smoking or drinking has on our public health. And, by extension, how much that impact actually costs all of us in tax dollars.
And it was just last month we reported right here that for the first time obesity’s passed tobacco as the most costly drag (so to speak) on our public health system. This isn’t an issue of aesthetics or discrimination. It’s a simple, scientific truth. Fat people are inherently unhealthy. They make health care – and our tax bills – more expensive as a result. And our carbonation nation is a huge contributor to our bloated waistlines.
(On a personal side note, the shortest Storey in the family, Harley, had an 18-month well-baby visit last week. The pediatrician’s face lit up when we told him all she wanted was water. She’s never had any interest in even something as tame as apple juice.)
The stats go on longer than a cheap casino buffet, but just let me drop this one: The obese ring up $190 billion in health care costs annually – a full 20 percent of all health care spending.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of it. So part of me cheered when full-time New York Mayor – and part-time social crusader – Michael Bloomberg – held a press conference to push for a citywide ban on soft drinks larger than 32 ounces.
It’s a nice thought, but it won’t work. For starters, we freedom-loving Americans love to defy Darwin – chronically acting against our own best interests while protesting the consequences. Everything is our right. Nothing is our responsibility.
But more importantly, Bloomberg’s passing up a better opportunity. Just double, or triple, the existing soda tax, which knocks out the second bird of nationwide anemic city and state budgets.
I drink pretty regularly – microbrews mostly, not Mountain Dews – and I don’t mind paying the extra tax on that. I’m sure someday I’ll need a new liver, so I figure I’m paying for it in installments ahead of time, so I’ll be covered.
Besides, isn’t one of the biggest gripes about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act how we’re gonna pay for it? The Congressional Budget Office just released an estimate that adding a tax of just three cents for every 12-ounce soft drink serving would generate $24 billion over the next four years. So let’s just double it, and we’re halfway to paying for health care reform.
And maybe we’ll get a few people to step away from the soda machine in the process.