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Letter: Another Tax on Food Or Drink Is Not Good For Anyone, Except New York State Coffers

(Editor’s note: This letter is in response to “Support Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages” by Judith Wylie-Rosett, EdD, RD, volunteer of the American Heart Association that appeared in the Friday, Dec. 10 edition of the Farmingdale Observer.)

The proffered idea is that a 20 percent increase in price will cause people to reduce their intake of sugary drinks. In actuality the only thing reduced will be the change in our pockets. A penny per ounce tax would be a whopping 68 cents extra on a 2-liter bottle of soda. This tax has little to do with combating obesity and everything to do with our legislature’s attempts to avoid facing the hard choices needed to get our state budget under control (the idea for this tax originated in 2009 with Governor Paterson’s proposed 18 percent tax on soda.)

This can rightly be called a sugar tax. So then where will it stop? Sugar is used as an ingredient in many of our foods, mainly to make them taste better. Shall there be a sugar tax on candy, cookies, a cup of coffee, ketchup on a hamburger, don’t forget the pickles?

As a reason to impose this tax Ms. Wylie-Rosett claims that low-income groups will benefit from this tax because they have higher rates of obesity and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. The example given is that 99 cents for a 2-liter soda is cheaper than bottled water, and presumably that is why people of lower income purchase soda. I don’t think poor people are buying soda instead of water when they can get water practically for free from their taps. Besides, this tax would only serve to raise the price of soda to make it on par with the price of water, reducing low-income purchasing power and doing nothing to encourage alternative choices.

If we are truly concerned about obesity, we need to place an incentive on healthier living. How about bringing calisthenics back to school gym classes? Make physical education grades partially tied to body mass index: A in range, B for marginal, C for obese. If the government wants to mandate something, it should be the President’s Fitness program. How about a tax deduction for gym membership? Tax benefits to food vendors who prove they are providing better nutrition in their low cost meals?

And furthermore, it is not the government’s place to be telling me what I ought to eat and drink; I ought to be free to make those decisions for myself.

Robert Roedig, Farmingdale resident