“Pop,” “soda,” “Coke,” or the “fizzy stuff.” Whatever you call it, soda has been under fire as of late for its link to obesity and metabolic diseases, not only in the U.S. but around the world.
According to a 2012 Gallup poll, nearly half of Americans report drinking at least one glass of soda daily, A typical can of soda has more than 40 grams (10 teaspoons) of sugar, which far surpasses the suggested added sugar intake of 25 grams (6 teaspoons) daily.
What’s more troubling is that children between the ages of 9 and 19 are actually consuming more sugar than adults! Nearly a third of young people in America are now overweight or obese, but promising studies show that children can improve their health in as little as 10 days just by reducing their added sugar intake.
Placing an added tax on soda could be one way to get people's consumption down. But Marion Nestle, author of Soda Politics, reports that taxing soda is an uphill battle: The American Beverage Association has spent $114 million fighting such taxes over the last five years.
Despite opposition from powerful corporations, people are still fighting to reform the soda market. In 2012, Michael Bloomberg made a bold proposal to ban sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces from all New York City restaurants. The initiative was approved by the New York City Board of Health but repealed as unconstitutional at the end of July 2014.
At least 30 other cities and states — from San Francisco to Telluride, Colorado — have tried to either ban or tax soda, but most have failed. Berkeley, California, was the first (and, so far, the only) American city to pass a tax on sugary beverages.
Some restaurants are also beginning to take initiative to reshape the soda market, starting with measures to limit kids' sugary drink consumption. To date, major chains like Wendy's, McDonald's, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Subway, Panera, Applebee’s, and IHOP have all removed soda from their kids' menus. That’s not to say they won’t offer soda for patrons, but it does send a not-so-subtle signal to parents and children that soda has no place in a kid’s diet.
Certain hospitals and schools across the country are also hoping to lessen kids' consumption of sugary drinks by nixing them from vending machines. However, as Karin Klein writes in an LA Times op-ed, “Reversing obesity trends will require more time, fewer assumptions, a lot more research and some piercing questions.” This makes sense when you consider a 2014 survey of 8,245 high school students in 27 states. The study found that 23 percent of students reported drinking at least one soda per day if they had access to vending machines in schools, compared to 28 percent of students who did not have access. Huh?
Daniel Taber, the study's leader author, thinks that this counterintuitive data could be attributed to the fact that the students polled can get sugary beverages very easily (and very cheaply) outside their schools. The research points to the fact that removing soda from school vending machines is not enough. We're going to have to take a more integrated, holistic approach to curbing America’s (and the world’s) sugar reliance.
As more people become aware of the dangers of a soda-heavy diet, more restaurants, hospitals, schools, and cities will likely begin implementing soft drink taxes and bans of their own. Here are four reasons these could be beneficial for individuals and communities across the country:
1. Soda taxes have the potential to reduce people’s sugar consumption.
Since Mexico implemented a soda tax in 2014, the rate of sugary beverage consumption in the country has dropped more than 6 percent. A similar tax in Indonesia allegedly “crippled drink makers” when it was introduced in 2004.
2. These taxes bring money into the economy.
The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity has developed a revenue calculator for sugar-sweetened beverage taxes. It shows that the state of New York, for instance, would bring in more than $781 million after taxing sugary beverages across the board.
3. The money can be used to fund health education.
Considering that childhood obesity and metabolic diseases are on the rise, it would make perfect sense to put these extra tax dollars back into health education. The beverage tax in Berkeley raised a total of $693,000 in the first six months of collection, and it's on track to bring in more than $1.2 million in its first year. This money is being put toward city programs aimed at improving nutrition and health.
4. Soda reform forces drink manufacturers to rethink their drinks!
Though the ultimate reason for instituting a soda tax is to reduce the rates of obesity and metabolic disease, the tax would also send a signal to drink manufacturers that added sugars could and should be limited.
- 10 Steps To Help You Kick Your Sugar Habit For Good
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- How Sugar Tricks Us + 5 Things We Can Do About It
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