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Weighing In On The Sugared Beverage Tax

March 31, 2010 - John Whittaker

Through a series of unexplainable events, throwback Pepsi made its way into my life a couple of weeks ago -- and our meeting was sublime.
Now that's how a Pepsi is supposed to taste -- your teeth disintegrating the minute that cold beverage hits your lips, your heart beating like you just drank five liters of Mountain Dew and the distinct possibility that your heart could explode at any minute.
I loved it.
Regular Pepsi has lost its meaning to me now. Even worse, it's made the already nauseating idea of drinking Diet Pepsi, Pepsi 1 and Pepsi Max the liquid equivalent of eating horse poop. Don't even get me started on Caffeine Free Pepsi, which tastes like NyQuil to me without the after-Nyquil buzz.
Why, then, with the wonderful taste of regular, sugared Pepsi still evident in my mouth, should it surprise me that I ran across a news release in my e-mail from the state Health Department touting the benefits of New York's sugared beverage tax -- and bringing you another installment of my Stupid Press Release of the Month.
One of the ways Gov. David Paterson wants to balance the budget is by taxing things that are bad for us. Just wait, sooner or later, New York will levy a tax for every time you click on your favorite Web site (damn you, every piece of toilet paper you use (they really get you coming and going, don't they?) and for every time you flip on your radio or television.
The funny thing is the Health Department leads their news release talking about criticism that the new tax will hurt soda and bottling companies. Companies already offer low-calorie or zero-calorie beverages. Pop with no caffeine has been available for decades. If people really wanted to drink such concoctions, wouldn't they be doing it already? Do you think making the good-tasting alternatives a bit more expensive will make people switch to the healthier, worse-tasting drinks? Has the $20 a pack people pay for cigarettes made that big a dent in the number of smokers? Can I really write a paragraph that ends entirely in question marks?
According to the news release, Coca Cola sells at least 23 beverages that are zero or low calorie beverages. PepsiCo has at least 47 such products and Dr. Pepper-Snapple sells at least 30 zero or low calorie beverages. We've pretty well established companies are making enough alternatives, but people don't like them.
At first, I wasn't sure I bought the argument that the tax would put people who bottle soft drinks out of work - but I'm coming around. If Pepsi costs 50 percent as much, I can pretty much guarantee you I'll drink water or powdered Gatorade and only buy Pepsi when it's on sale - kind of like how I buy Sam Adams now. That doesn't deter the Health Department, though.
"The fear that people will lose jobs as a result of a sugared beverage tax is unfounded. All of the soda companies and bottling companies, in addition to bottling sugared beverages, are producing many zero calorie and low calorie beverages. If consumption of sugared beverages decreases, as we hope it will as a result of this tax, these companies can compensate by increasing the production of their zero and low calorie products. People will modestly reduce their consumption of sugared beverages and will replace these with the zero calorie and low calorie products already being produced and bottled by these same companies." the Health Department says in its news release.
That's great. Not only are you taking away my sugared up throwback Pepsi, you honestly expect me to drink low-fat milk? I can't even have the good milk anymore? It took me years to warm up to the idea of 2 percent milk, now you're telling me you expect me to get rid of my 2-percent milk for even worse-tasting milk (see the associated poster posted with the photos in this blog). Next, you'll levy a tax every time I drink it out of the carton (an idea the News Wife enthusiastically endorses).
Scientifically, I'll agree with the Health Department that beverages containing large amounts of added sugar have a link to obesity. Could I stand to lose 10 pounds? Absolutely. Am I fat because I drink too much Pepsi? Absolutely not. I'm chunky because I like sitting in my easy chair watching a ball game instead of going out and running two miles a night. It's a tradeoff I choose to make. 

And yes, I'll say that parents should probably do a better job of making sure their kids aren't hopped up on sugary beverages all the time. Personally, I don't think kids should be allowed to buy Red Bull or AMP Energy or those other energy drinks, either. They're hyper enough as it is.
Unfortunately, that's a parenting decision. My kids won't be drinking such drinks, because that's the way they'll be raised. Other parents either disagree with me or don't give a crap what their kids are putting into their bodies.
That's the population the state is trying to reach -- the parents who don't really care what their kids are drinking.
And, by reaching them, they're hurting me -- the average middle class, working taxpayer who has earned the right to drink what he wants without getting hit with another tax. In an economy where a raise isn't guaranteed every year, it seems like I'm getting nickel and dimed on things I enjoy -- cable so I can watch Syracuse sports and the Yankees, a cold beer, gas for my car so I can drive where I want to go.
Now, add a cold Pepsi on a summer day to the list of things that will cost me more because somebody knows better than I do what's good for me.
Thanks, Big Brother, for watching out for my best interests. Apparently, I have no idea whatsoever what's good for me.


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I miss the days when Pepsi carried some of the same heart-exploding properties as crack. Isn't watering down Pepsi a victory enough for Health Departments?