Ban or Tax on Soda
Other beverages have replaced water as the most preferred choice for the people. At present, sweetened beverages are consumed by many people in the world. However, concerns have been raised on the effects of sweetened beverages on the health, with studies showing that they are the source of increasing health problems like diabetes and obesity within American Society. Such diseases cause many deaths and can be pointed to be responsible for the high cost healthcare. The problem is compounded by the fact that many of the affected are younger, posing great danger to the American future generation. Sugar or sweetened drinks include carbonated sodas, energy and sports drinks. For this reason, many states have come up with certain regulations in a bid to reduce the impact of the sweetened beverages on the young Americans (World Health Organization 5). World Health Organization (WHO) called for reduction in advertising and availing of sweetened beverages to the young children among all member states (WHO 5-8). The most common methods adopted by many states in the United States are banning of sweetened drinks and increasing taxes on the. It is widely accepted that sugar sweetened beverages add a significant amount of sugar to American diets, and can contribute to obesity and increased health risks (Pomeranz 12). I believe restricting access through banning, or increasing taxes on these types of beverages will not significantly reduce consumption or improve overall health.
Background and Recent Events
Research shows that Americans consume more calories than they did one generation ago, with much it coming from sweetened drinks. High cases of obesity within the country have been linked to the increased intake of sweetened beverages (WHO 8). This comes from the fact that weight gain is also associated with such drinks (Delgado 2). Concerted effort has been adopted by various states in order to reduce accessibility and consumption of sweetened drinks, especially soda. Such measures have been adopted with the understanding that a reduction in sweetened beverage consumption directly translates to a reduction in weight gain. As a result, states have come up with measures to reduce consumption of sweetened beverages through ban on carbonated sodas in certain places like schools. On the same note, other states have gone ahead to increase taxes on such drinks in order to make it unaffordable to certain persons within the society Public (Health Law Center 3).
New York is one of the states that have come up with legislations on controlling sweetened sugars. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a proposal in 2012 to ban selling of sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces. The law was passed by the Board of Health, coming into force in March 2013. According to the ‘Soda Ban’ regulation, sweetened drinks like sodas; fruit juice drinks like lemonade and fruit smoothies; sports drink like Gatorade and pre-sweetened coffee and teas more than 16 ounces are not to be sold in certain places like restaurants, movie theaters, arenas, stadiums and food carts (O’Connor 2).
Some hospitals in Chicago’s Cook County have done away with sodas, energy drinks and other sweetened beverages in their vending machines and cafeterias in order to adopt healthier drinks. In fact hospital cafeterias offer free bottle of water in their meal advertisements instead of sweetened drinks (Pomeranz 5). In Los Angeles, the City Council committee made a proposal to ban all sweetened drinks in all vending machines within parks and libraries. In Richmond, a one percent tax for every ounce was effected in order to reduce the consumption of the sweetened beverages and at the same time raise revenue for development (Delgado 1).
However, implementation of the regulations has brought different reactions in terms of the outcome. Notably, the ban has led to a reduction in sweetened beverages in the designated parts. However, it turns out that the amount of consumed sugar-based beverages has not reduced since they can be found in other places. The ban of sodas in places like schools in New York City has led to many young people turning to other energy drinks that are equally harmful to health (O’Connor 1-2). For this reason, public debate points to the fact that ban and increased taxes may not work to help the situation; it requires more than such measures.
Scientific Evidence, Trials and Reports
Researches have been done on the effects of increased consumption of sweetened beverages in the lives of Americans. Most of these studies show that obesity; diabetes and other health complications are brought by the intake of these beverages. According to the proposal made by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 5,000 Americans die every year from health complications like diabetes and obesity. According to him, the best way out was to implement regulations that would reduce access to these beverages. One important aspect of health complications from sweetened beverage consumption is that the most affected persons are the children of this generation. Pomeranz (10) notes that children consume these beverages within their schools as well as other areas. Such reports have led to the enactment of the ban or tax levy on the sweetened beverages in different states. Reduced consumption of sweetened beverages has been found to lead to the loss of weight.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are charged with regulating safety of different products within the United States (Pomeranz 2-7). According to this organization, consumption of soft drinks has increased because of the presence of energy drinks. The problem is compounded by the fact that most of these beverages have added sugar, affecting most children because of the increased frequency of intake (FTC 2-3). An increase in the intake of such drinks leads to weight problems, causing obesity. Unfortunately, most of the drinks are labeled in a way that informs consumers on the amount of sugar required. According to FTC (3), sweetened beverages also affect teeth by causing dental caries.
At present, many states have implemented the ban and tax regulations on sweetened beverages. However, reports from such regions show that less is being achieved from the regulations since the rate of consumption still remains the same. According to the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, no changes in consumption have been achieved in certain states. For example, in states where sodas were banned, children only removed sodas from their list of beverages but continued to take others. On the same note, other reports indicate that the ban has helped in the restriction of sweetened beverages within designated areas like schools (Delgado 1). Nevertheless, many students agree to the fact that their rates of consumption has not gone down. This means that they can access the same items somewhere else, with most of them feeling that Gatorade is an alternative to soda since they perceive it healthier.
Adoption of legislations that regulate consumption has led to different viewpoints by some proposing that people are free to make choices on what is best for them, while others are supportive of these measures. As noted above, proponents of the ban argue that limiting access to sodas and other sweetened beverages is a solution towards eradicating obesity problem in the United States (Health Law Center 2). According to them, families spend more money in caring for health complications from such beverages. Since the most affected persons are children, they propose that regulations should limit access of sodas and sweetened beverages from them. On the same note, imposing taxes on these products would lead to an increase in prices towards the consumer; something that would limit purchases and consumption (FTC 2).
On the other hand, opponents of these regulations point to the fact that measures in place are not adequate in fighting the problem. According to them, obesity problem needs a more inclusive approach that ensures that a solution is found. Most importantly, they argue that people are responsible for the choices they make. Therefore, the best way out is to avail information on the right amount of sugar required in the body to help make appropriate choices. These people also fault the use of taxes in an attempt to discourage sweetened beverage consumption noting that other basic items like vegetables would be affected by traders (O’Connor 1-2).
Pro-choice people note that sodas and sweetened beverages are just one source of obesity problem in the United States; therefore, imposing a ban and taxes may not help deal with the problem as required (Pomeranz 5-12). Other sources of obesity must be identified and dealt with accordingly. Beverage companies and the American Beverage Association (ABA) are part of the group with the viewpoint that banning sweetened beverages is a torture on business dealing on legal products. In particular, ABA has spent millions of dollars fighting taxes imposed on these beverages in court. An argument arises that a good economy gives consumers the freedom to choose what to eat or drink; therefore, imposing regulations deny this right.
Impact of Advertising
Pomeranz (4) notes that advertising has been a major influence towards the increase in soda consumption. For instance, many food and beverage companies in the United States spend millions in advertisement that target the youth. According to Pomeranz’s report, over ninety percent of all advertising expenditures by these companies target the adolescent group (4). On the same note, packaging is also done in a way to appeal to the teenagers. The above illustrations show that beverage companies understand that younger Americans are higher consumers of sweetened beverages than adults, and for this reason, they direct most of their advertising expenditure towards these youths. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Report show that approximately $880 million was spent by beverage companies on marketing products to the children and over one billion dollars was spent towards adolescent group in 2006 only (1). Television advertising is the most preferred followed by other types like erecting large billboards with messages and specific appealing formats.
Advertising is powerful with companies willing to commit money to ensure that their products are sold. The much advertising of sweetened beverages is seen to be the cause of the increase in consumption by the younger Americans, and for this reason, Department of Health and Human Services launched a program dubbed Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative in an attempt to sensitize the industry players on the need to promote healthier eating habits through advertising (WHO 7). Most importantly, this initiative seeks to put age limit in terms of advertisement. In the United States, large beverage companies work together in a bid to achieve self-regulation on responsible advertising by the private sector (Pomeranz 7). It is important to note that advertising can help promote healthy eating habits.
Effectiveness of Taxes and Restriction on other Products (like tobacco)
Taxes are taken as an important strategy towards achieving restriction. In most cases, a government can impose an increase in taxes in order to raise prices of the product for the consumers (Pomeranz 7). This comes from the fact that increases in taxes force companies to pass the extra charges to the consumers through increased prices (Health Law Center 3). Therefore, consumers with less money to spend would be forced to forego the product because of the increased prices. Tobacco is one of the products that achieved restriction through taxes. After higher taxes were imposed on tobacco, the retail prices considerably increased, forcing the younger American generation to stop smoking cigarettes since they had less money to spend. In the end, only adults could afford cigarettes, effectively achieving restriction of tobacco.
However, this should not be assumed to be effective on other products like legal foods and drinks. In places where taxes have been used to try regulating sodas and other sweetened beverages, arguments have been given noting that high taxes on these products may increase prices to the majority who are already struggling with the cost of life. To such people, taxes may easily affect prices of other basic commodities like vegetables.
The government has been concerned with the rising consumption of sodas and other sweetened beverages and therefore has come up with certain tax policies aimed at restricting these beverages. Currently, more than 30 states have enacted laws that allow for sales and excise tax averaging 5%. Other than discouraging people from consuming sweetened beverages, taxes have been seen as avenues for collecting revenues for other developmental purposes (Public Health Law Center 3). In the United States, an increase in healthcare expenses is seen to be contributed by the sugar and weight-related complication. Therefore, taxation plan by the government is to increase the prices of the final retail product in order discourage consumption (Pomeranz 7). The collected revenue is also intended to help funding weight related illnesses like obesity and diabetes.
However, it is important to admit that certain policies need to be formulated in order to achieve the needed success. This calls for an increased role of the government in identifying ways of helping the situation. So far, what has been done by many states is the formulation of policies that restrict children from accessing sweetened beverages (Public Health Law Center 2). This has led to restriction of such in public places like restaurants, schools, libraries, movie theaters, food street vendors and stadiums.
Nevertheless, it is apparent that there is need for a look at other creative policies that embraces other options. Factual disclosure is an important policy that the government can use to compel beverage companies to disclose actual information of the drinks on sale. Such information helps in educating the public on exact contents of the beverage on sale. Policy on regulation of sales should ensure that a holistic approach is embraced towards the public adopting healthy lifestyle (O’Connor 1-2). At the moment a problem comes from the fact that regulation of sales has bee imposed on certain institutions like schools and other public places while the same regulated beverages still available in other places. On the same note, ban has been adopted partially, giving rise to consumption of alternative sweetened beverages.
Apparently, it comes out that ban and taxes on sodas and other beverages have not helped reduce the amount of calories consumed each day. Diabetes and obesity complications have been mentioned as main factors towards regulations on these products, noting that they are the major contribution towards these health complications. Since policies in place have not been all inclusive, results have not shown meaningful improvement on the situation. According to the public policy report by Wharton University of Pennsylvania (2), this means that alternative solutions need to be adopted in order to fight obesity and diabetes in America. The fact that healthcare cost continues to rise among the young and old in this society is not disputable; however, it turns out that identifying other sources of calories to the body would help the situation. Otherwise, imposing ban and taxes on sodas only leads to a change in consumption towards products of the same nature but are considered dietary. In the long run, no meaning impact is felt in terms of reducing daily calories in the body (Pomeranz 7). Alternative solutions should come from the identification of other sources of increased calories that lead to obesity and diabetes.
Reducing consumption requires that the public is made aware of the effects of excess calories in the body. Knowledge is power because it works to empower the public to make informed choices concerning their health (Pomeranz 7). Natural fresh fruits are used to make drinks available in many stores. Therefore, there is need to promote consumption of such products because of the health benefits that they bring. Another fact comes from the fact that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) need to ensure that all sodas and other sweetened beverages adhere to the required amount of calories for every ounce. This requires a strict legislation that regulates excess addition of sweeteners or sugar to the beverages sold to the public because the important factor is the amount of calories consumed by people each day.
Reduction in consumption of sweetened and in order to improve health standards in the United States requires an effort that goes beyond ban and taxes. It is evident that no remarkable improvement in health standards has been reported since the enactment of regulation in various states in the country. Instead of reducing consumption, people are coming up with alternatives to the banned beverages (O’Connor 1-2). In most schools, sodas have been banned thus achieving restriction to the school children. However, a misconception exists among the younger generation that energy drinks like Gatorade are healthier, offering them an opportunity to embrace as an alternative to sodas. Many children report that their daily consumption of sweetened drinks has not changed since they can access the same out of their school environment. On the same note, taxes only present an opportunity for the states to increase their revenue at the expense of the struggling people in the country (Public Health Law Center 3). This means that consumers have to pay more for them to access the beverages, not putting into consideration that alternatives exist within the same market. Instead of putting legislations that increase food prices, measures should be put in place to cushion the larger portion of the public against unnecessary food and beverage price increases. For the above reasons, this paper takes a stand that ban or taxes on sodas and beverages cannot neither reduce consumption nor improve health of the Americans.
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