Go tax yourself

By Managing Editor

By 2014 it’s pretty common knowledge that America is fat.

The obesity rate has been ballooning for years, people aren’t getting enough exercise and First Lady Michelle Obama has made it her personal crusade to convince kids to eat their veggies. The current state of physical health in the U.S. is laughable, but the nation’s Body Mass Index is ultimately determined by its citizens, not its government.

In Illinois’ latest attempt to force residents to live healthy, Sen. Mattie Hunter (D–Chicago) has proposed imposing a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks that are sold in sealed containers, raising the price of a case of soda by $2.88. Although the increase would certainly sway people to buy less pop, Hunter’s logic is superficial at best.

“Numerous studies have linked excessive consumption of sugary soft drinks to obesity,” Hunter told NBC Chicago on Feb. 19. “We as a state need to do a better job of educating the public and children in particular about this issue and the health risks.”

Hunter is absolutely right: Drinking too much soda will result in weight gain and the state does need to further educate people about the dangers of junk food—but education should be the extent of the state’s role in residents’ diets; it’s not Illinois’ job to monitor what people eat.

Plus, charging an extra cent per ounce isn’t enough of a deterrent for habitual soda drinkers. And even if people really can’t afford to shell out an extra few cents for a bottle of Coke, they’ll still get their sugar fix elsewhere, like from calorie-laden juice or candy. People will inevitably continue indulging in indulgently sugary treats, even if drinkable forms become far too expensive.

Hunter may have good intentions, but this legislation would do nothing more than circumvent the sale of soft drinks, unfairly damaging the beverage industry while not really solving the obesity problem.

Americans need a crash course in healthy eating, and charging more for a can of Mountain Dew just isn’t the same.