back to article Profs call for harsh taxes on sweet carbonated beverages

Medical scientists in San Francisco have sent a chill wind blowing through the IT industry as they issue a call for swingeing taxes on "soda, fruit punch, sweet tea, sports drinks, and other sweetened beverages". A collection of health profs and other researchers led by Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo (associate professor of medicine …

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Official reg units please

We want that in Olympic swimming pools!

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Boffin

It's already in official Reg units

There just comes a point where measuring in Olympic swimming pools becomes unwieldy, and one is forced to measure in Suez canals instead. This point has now been reached.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: It's already in official Reg units

This is the Americans we're talking about here, it should be measured in Atlantic Oceans!

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Anonymous Coward

You might have heard of Napa Valley? Or Starbucks?

El Reg needs to come up for air occasionally. We have beer, wine, coffee, and tea too. But you knew that.

That said, those SF boffins need to pull their heads out too. The epidemic we have is too much High Fructose Corn Syrup in our soft drinks. They need to tax that stuff so that it's more expensive than cane sugar. When all our soft drinks were sweetened with real sugar we didn't have this 'epidemic'.

Me? I go out of my way to buy soft drinks with real sugar, and I find it's hard to drink more than one, sometimes not even all of one. Why? Because when you drink real sugar, your stomach sends a message to your brain telling it you're full. HFCS doesn't do that.

There's that sorted. Now what's the cause of all the fatties in Britain?

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Anonymous Coward

let me think....

..McDonalds, KFC, Pepsi,Coca C

ola.........

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Wow, where to begin....

Starbucks started in Washington State, not Cali, where they probably couldn't have afforded the taxes let alone the accountants and lawyers to file the necessary paperwork.

HFCS is cheaper than sugar because in addition to the LA purchase for Obamacare, LA keeps getting a sugar tax passed that inflates the cost of sugar to about twice what it would cost to import it from Jamaica. No need to tax HFCS, just abolish the distorting tax on imported sugar.

HFCS vs "real sugar"? The body can't tell the difference between them. Both are carbs and trigger the same responses. The real problem is that you build up a tolerance to the responses, and therefore can consume more and more of it. Dr. Atkins might not have the safest diet in the world, but he got the biological cycles right on carbs.

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Facepalm

I'm generally against taxing unhealthy stuff (and Sugar is as bad for the health as HFCS when consumed in industrial amounts - the problem really is that every drink, fast-food, prepackaged meal etc has LOTS of it) . Treat people as adults and let them make their own choices. Stop subsidising corn for HCFS and remove sugar import taxes (Heck, isn't it the USAans who are usually banging on about free trade? Or is that only when free trade helps you to sell stuff to Africa & Latin America, not to help them to sell you stuff?)

Above all, people need to have a minimum of education about what rubbish is in a lot of food these days.

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Free trade? Not when they're in a recession.

...Then the "Buy American" protectionism comes out in full force, no matter what the consequences.

So, are they going to exclude 'diet' drinks from this tax? After all, there's no sugar of any kind in a can of Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi.

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Of course they aren't. Diet drinks contain nasty chemicals that are known to the state of california to cause cancer and brain disease and all sorts of other nasty things, including hydroxilic acid and oxidane, not to mnetion carbonic acid. They release dangerous amounts of CO2 as well - a typical can contains CO2 at levels that would suffocate an adult male in minutes if they were in a room with the same percentage of the stuff in the air.

Besides, you really think they'd let a little thing like a drink not containing the thing they're taxing prevent them from taxing it?

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Anonymous Coward

You what. ?

Got the cycle right on carbs ?

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Maybe not your body...

"HFCS vs "real sugar"? The body can't tell the difference between them. "

Mine certainly can, beginning at the taste buds.

And before you blame LA, Google "U.S. sugar subsidies", as in federal level. They're the reason manufacturers went to corn syrup in the first place.

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You need to learn your

state abbreviations.

And no, the digestive cycle can't tell the difference.

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Anonymous Coward

"And no, [...]"

Since you initially stated that the "body can't tell the difference", I'm not sure why you think what follows is a reaffirmation. It isn't. You're slowly winding back your initial remark whilst pretending that you're not. Classic behaviour of the BS artiste.

" the digestive cycle can't tell the difference."

Explain the lack of insulin and leptin response to fructose consumption then.

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Boffin

Sigh, not so high

'High' fructose corn syrup is only high in fructose compared to untweaked corn syrup which is very low in fructose. The tweaking doesn't boost the level even near 50%, which is the level of fructose you get with cane sugar, which is sucrose: one glucose monomer bound to one fructose monomer. So in the past, with cane sugar, there was actually more of that nasty fructose in your Dr Pepper than there is now. The difference is that in the past you didn't drink soda by the bucketfull.

BTW eating your calories in the form of sugar makes you fat because the spike in blood glucose overwhelm's your body's ability to store it as glycogen (assuming you have exercised recently to make some space for it in your muscles) so it gets stored as fat instead. Now in the case of your corn syrup vs cane sugar you have a point here. That is because sucrose (cane sugar) has a higher GI than HFCS. This is because firstly your body has to break the bond in sucrose (though saliva will do much of that) whereas HFCS is very largely monomeric glucose, with some monomeric fructose. Secondly, your body can't use fructose directly so it has to go through the liver where it gets converted into glucose. This makes fructose quite low GI because it only dribbles into the bloodstream. So the HFCS is worse than cane sugar, but not for the reasons you think.

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Linux

Nevermind sin taxes...

Nevermind the sin taxes.

Cutting out the subsidies that keep the price of HFCS artificially low would be a good start.

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Coat

I can almost hear the...

collective "big gulp" from consumers....

See what I did there?

I know, I am getting it now.

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> we have is too much High Fructose Corn Syrup in our soft drinks

Whilst in the US I was offered the choice of US or Mexican "soda", the former made with HFCS, the latter with ordinary sugar.

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PT

Mexican soda, made with sugar instead of HCFS, is very popular where I live in the SW in spite of being more than twice the price of the domestic article. You really can taste the difference. I don't often buy sugared drinks but if I'm having a party, I get a case of Mexican.

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Taxing vices...

I recall there's been an historic aversion to taxing various vices. Perhaps if I knew more about it, I'd understand better, because at least taxing a vice means you can still partake it IF you pay the admission. Perhaps if the practice were extended more broadly to cover things like excessively-sweetened or extra-salty foods or maybe things with more processed and fewer raw agricultural ingredients, it may start giving people pause. It might also help to even out the inherent imbalance between cheap but nasty vs. good but expensive food.

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Pint

Here in France...

The soft drink tax is already happening, starting in 2012 it is expected to generate 280 million euros. Enough I think to take care of the medical bills of all us BOFHs.

Pint because I rather have a 'proper' pint than something stuffed full of dissolved sugars.

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Except that drinking alcohol at work is rarely encouraged.

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Pint

This *is* France we're talking about...

...so there's plenty of time for wine or beer during your 3 hour lunch break.

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Government Maths

Looks like both your example and the one in the article suffer from the usual "have your cake and eat it" style of government maths.

On the one hand, they're touting the tax as a way to reduce people's consumption of bad_product_A; but on the other they're extolling the financial gains of such a tax based on the initial figures... go figure

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WTF?

@Greg J Preece

"Except that drinking alcohol at work is rarely encouraged."

Maybe not in the office, But surely the lunchtime pint is still a tradition among British techies?

The best work is always done after a lunchtime pint of a real ale or scrumpy!

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Nev
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33 Hour Lunch Break..!?

Don't be silly. No one in France takes a 3 hour lunch break.

We wouldn't have enough time in the day to plan our 48 days of holiday if we did that!

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"Maybe not in the office, But surely the lunchtime pint is still a tradition among British techies?" It would be if it wouldn't get me sacked.
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"This equates to a cool 45 gallons per head per year on average: or roughly enough to fill the Suez Canal with Peach Snapple."

What a wonderful new unit of volume. I've not noticed the Suez Canal before.

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The Suez Canal

It's a giant hold in the ground, dug from 1859 to 1869, then filled with water so ships can pass. Frankly I don't know how you could miss it.

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Anonymous Coward

How I missed the Suez Canal

Can't pee straight...

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Facepalm

"First they came...

...for the alcohol drinkers, but I said nothing because I don't like pubs and the youth of today swigging cider from 2L bottles outside my local off-licence.

Next they came for the carbonated beverage drinkers, but I said nothing as I wouldn't touch that teeth-rotting rubbish with a bargepole - it's 100% Organic Pret-a-Manger fruit juices all the way for me.

Now they come for me, and everyone still thinks I'm an arsehole."

On a different note, I suspect tap water isn't too long for this world either. 100% of people who drink it die.

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Pirate

Fuck them

I Love Coca-Cola. There, I said it. If they want something to tax, let them start taxing the publication of overbearing scholarly studies showing how we Americans still aren't eating/drinking properly, even after decades of the "We know better than you" nanny-isms coming from these self-righteous medical researchers. As a taxpayer and unconcerned consumer, I'm getting rather tired of the constant parade of "things to be afraid of" - BPAs, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, red meat, white meat, sun tans, cholesterol, alcohol. Fuck 'em all, none of us are going to live forever. If they want to live an ascetic lifestyle, fine, move to the Himalayas and find a local Guru. Leave the rest of us workaday Joes the fuck alone to muddle through our lives.

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Boffin

We know better than you

> "We know better than you" nanny-isms coming from these self-righteous medical researchers.

I hate to say it, but those self-righteous medical researchers actually DO know better than you. (Since I take it you don’t have a medical degree?).

They have given genuine scientific advice ("corn syrup is bad m'kay "). On an individual level, you are free to ignore this if you wish. On a national level, you can vote for a government that either takes or ignores scientific advice.

*cough* EcstasyIsSaferThanHorseRiding *cough*

I'm just sayin' :-)

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Flame

I'll go you one better:

we shouldn't HAVE to wait for the revolution to put these kinds of fascist bastages up against the wall.

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Anonymous Coward

Where's the harm in moderation? Sadly something I didn't learn until I got to around 35 and 23 stone! I know I am a fat porker ( now down to 18 stone after 2 years ) due to eating to much wrong food! No excuses. No one else to blame. I had to learn to put the damn fork down!

Eat and drink the shite you like but just do it occasionally and balance that greasy kebab with a salad the next day. The can of coke with a couple of glasses of water and the plate of chips with a jacket spud ( no butter ).

Saying we all die is all well and good but what about those left behind? I cut back the shite when my first kid was born as I didn't what her learning my very bad diet habits I had. What about the method of death? A slow protracted blindness due to diabetes? How about a stroke from shite flowing up your blood stream into your noggin? How about a nice classic and very painful heart-attack? What about spending the rest of your life in a wheel chair after your joints get so screwed up due to too much weight on 'em?

Eating shite sounds fine when your body is still coping with it but sooner or later it becomes habit and all all that shite builds up and comes back to get you. I still eat shite but now I do it very occasionally just as a treat.

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Anonymous Coward

> I hate to say it, but those self-righteous medical researchers actually DO know better than you.

Unfortunately, those self-righteous medical researchers also have an agenda they're pushing that runs counter to their arguments. Fruit juices have a higher caloric density than sodas, but researchers don't want to mention that. They want people to believe that fruit juice is good for you when it isn't. For what few vitamins you can get from fruit juice, you're better off eating a piece of fresh fruit.

Until they come for fruit juice, all their noise about sodas is just hot air.

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Facepalm

The researchers are underpants gnomes?

1) Switch the population from high sugar soft-drinks to high sugar 'fruit' juices

2) ...

3) Profit!

Unless you can come up with a (credible) motive for a great conspiracy, you are just blowing holes in the back of your own undies!

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Anonymous Coward

Considering how much sugar is in a tangerine, you are better off eating a chocolate bar.

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Linux

The glycemic hit.

Considering the size of your average tangerine, it can't have more sugar than a chocolate bar. It's just too small. On the other hand, the biochemical impact of the sugar in fruit is offset by the rest of the fruit.

Plus the fruit hasn't had all of it's best nutrients destroyed by pastuerization.

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Boffin

Step away from the fruit and nut

No. That chocolate bar contains lots of sucrose (cocoa is bitter, remember?) whereas your tangerine is largely full of fructose. As I explain above, fructose is low GI and eating it encapsulated in acid, fibrous goodness lowers the GI further. This is not true of tangerine juice, no fibre to speak of, no cell walls to break down and may have added sucrose. Eat the tangerine.

BTW not all fruit is low GI, pineapples for eg are high in sucrose. Look at the GI tables, use them.

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Yes and No

Soda and fruit juice have about the same range of "caloric density"-- usually about 100 to 140 calories per serving. And a glass of pure orange juice contains over 100% the daily requirement of Vitamin C, plus a goodly amount of Potassium and Folic acid, nutrients you will not find in carbonated beverages. The problem with fruit juices is that all the nutritional fiber is generally removed, and it is all too easy to consume larger volumes through the course of a day than might be beneficial.

The greater problem, as I see it, is that sweetened beverages are often the only affordable option for those on the lower end of the economic scale, who might actually depend on them for part of basic sustenance. Until healthful alternatives are made both more affordable and available, perhaps through subsidies, the proposal of such a regressive tax seems kinda cruel.

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Linux

No purity in industrial food

> And a glass of pure orange juice ...which you're only going to get if you juiced it yourself. Any factory made juice is going to have the life boiled out of it. It has to. Otherwise you will end up killing people from food poisoning. Seriously. Odwalla killed people this way.
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Anonymous Coward

Ignorant

Most people are so ignorant they don't even think about the food or beverages they consume. Then they wonder why they have so many health issues. Taxing sugary beverages won't lower consumption because most people are just too stupid to stop drinking this crap.

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Megaphone

Doctors take note

Your job is NOT to dictate how we have to live our lives or what we are allowed to do to our bodies.

Your job is to do research and educate based on your results. After you have delivered the information to the public your job is done, it is then up to the individual to make their own decision based on the information they have been given. If that person then CHOOSES (Important point!) to drink alcohol, smoke, eat fatty foods, drink sugary drinks then that is entirely up to them. They have the information to make an informed choice and have done so. We are not children who need someone to tell them what they can and can't do because we don't know any better.

If our lifestyle choices then lead to poor health it is then your job to patch us up the best you can and give advice on how we can improve our health. Again it is our CHOICE if we want to listen to you, if we don't then we accept the consequences of our actions. If that means a shorter life then so be it, at least we enjoyed it while it lasted.

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But then the health system has to spend many years tending to their medical problems. If people could not get NHS care for diabetes and other illnesses associated then that would be a better situation.

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Anonymous Coward

"If our lifestyle choices then lead to poor health it is then your job to patch us up the best you can and give advice on how we can improve our health. Again it is our CHOICE if we want to listen to you, if we don't then we accept the consequences of our actions."

Very American! I suppose it's up to you to pay for all the fixing up and not expect everyone else to pay for it, though.

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Why

The people have paid for the NHS in taxes why shouldn't they be able to use it?

In particular smokers pay far far more in taxes than than they cost the NHS in related illnesses. Last official figures show that smokers pay £10bn in taxes per year on cigarettes alone and cost the NHS £1.7bn for related illnesses so how is a tax increase or refusal of treatment from the NHS fair?

Same goes for all the other so called vices. It's all well and good claiming that they cost the NHS x amount of £s per year but how much have they generated in tax already? Why should people pay any more tax under the guise of 'protecting public health' when they have already paid enough to pay for these services many times over?

The only change I would make is to stop repeat offenders. If you go to the doctors with the same complaint multiple times and it is known to be easily treatable with a lifestyle change and you continually refuse to change your habits then I think doctors should then be able to refuse treatment. Why waste resources when the person has proven that they don't care so let them deal with the consequences. If they are willing to change then resources should be made available to them to help them change but only if it is their choice and show that they are genuinely committed to changing otherwise you are wasting money that could be spent on someone who needs it.

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Flame

The CHOICE to be a drain...

I think your CHOICEs should also preclude you from obtaining health insurance or government subsidized health or retirement programs as you have made the CHOICE to ruin your body in contradiction of doctor's orders. Thanks for driving up healthcare costs with your double-wide arse.

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American?

I think not, born and bred British.

Tell me this - If I have already paid more in tax than someone who lives the classic 'healthy' lifestyle how are they subsidising me? I think you will find it the other way around. What if everybody took up that lifestyle? The NHS would sink because of the drop in tax revenue. I'm sure increasing everybody's income tax by a substantial amount to cover the shortfall would go down really well with everybody. We already get taxed enough on the 'bad' stuff and it pays for a lot of the things you take for granted so there is no excuse to penalise those who don't fall into the 'healthy' line even more.

What about the extra burden of everybody living longer? They are already screaming that they can't afford the pensions, that there isn't enough housing, that there isn't enough carers or care facilities. This country and the world as a whole cannot afford to have everybody living to 90+

How about putting extra taxes on 'healthy' stuff to offset those extra years that they will be a burden for?

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@William 14

Nice ASSumption there

Not that it's any of your business but I am 5'9 and weigh 11st, not what you would call fat. I smoke, I drink and occasionally eat a macdonalds so what of it?

I also go hiking, cycle, climb mountains and play football so am I healthy or not? Physically I am fine and have been to the doctors exactly once in about 5 years. I work and pay a decent amount of income tax, NI etc so when something does happen to me in the future why shouldn't I expect to be looked after. I've already paid for it you self-righteous prick

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Anonymous Coward

Only if you're willing to pay for your ignorance

I'm not going to pay higher health insurance, auto insurance, home insurance, city, state and federal taxes to pay for your irresponsible behavior. Unless you're willing to pay for your indulgences you can rot on the sidewalk as far as I am concerned. You chose your "lifestyle" and you can suffer the consequences of your poor life choices.

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