New Yorkers Brace for Double Tax on Sugared Beverages

December 26, 2008 at 5:37 pm 19 comments

Commentary from Governor David Patterson, New York on

Today, we find ourselves in the midst of a new public health epidemic: childhood obesity.

What smoking was to my parents’ generation, obesity is to my children’s generation. Nearly one out of every four New Yorkers under the age of 18 is obese. In many high-poverty areas, the rate is closer to one out of three.

That is why, in the state budget I presented last Tuesday, I proposed a tax on sugared beverages like soda. Research has demonstrated that soft-drink consumption is one of the main drivers of childhood obesity.

These days I’m no longer surprised when something like an “obesity tax” is foisted upon the masses without so much as a whimper – afterall it is your fault if you’re fat, right?  You should pay more, right?

Several commentators in the media applauded the move by Governor Patterson – Nicolas Kristof opined the hope that other states will follow suit because “if other states follow, [it] could help make us healthier.”

He even ties it up neatly with a bow, repeating Patterson’s parallel to smoking and cigarettes, “These days, sugary drinks are to American health roughly what tobacco was a generation ago. A tax would shift some consumers, especially kids, to diet drinks or water.”

No one likes taxes, but by golly, we must do this for the children!  We must save ourselves from ourselves with this tax – save the children, save the world, reduce consumption of sugared beverages and all will be well.

What’s maddening isn’t so much the propsed tax on sugared beverages, it is what government does if they can get away with it….what’s maddening is that no one seems to notice that we are already paying taxes that enable the flood of cheap soda, fruit drinks and sugared beverages into our markets.  It’s paid by our taxes in the Farm Bill, with corn being king amongst the crops subsidized by our tax dollars.

This new tax represents a double taxation to New Yorkers – taxed first from their income to subsidize corn in the Farm Bill; and now to add insult to injury, when they dare to consume products made from the corn products their tax dollars helped make cheap at the consumer level – namely high-fructose corn syrup….beverages produced that are artificially low in price at the consumer level and often cheaper than buying a bottle of water!

If the government truly wants to tackle the obesity epidemic, perhaps it’s time to revisit the Farm Bill and how it is directly creating a market flooded with cheap corn calories at the consumer level for things like high-fructose corn syrup which is used in thousands of food products in our markets!


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19 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Meredith Curry  |  December 28, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    That is crazy! I know many people who could eat sugar straight and never gain an inch. On the other hand, I’ve watched a gentleman who is overweight in the building I work at, eat Healthy Choice t.v. dinners everyday for lunch, drink diet soda, and walk an hour a day and not take off 5 pounds hardly in the last 2 years. Don’t ask him if he is eating too much. He has been busting his butt to lose weight, and in return he’s gained major frustration.

    Oh my gosh, don’t even get me started on those corn syrup commercials. That makes me so mad!

  • 2. nonegiven  |  December 29, 2008 at 2:09 am

    That Healthy Choice crap has too much starch and not enough protein or vegetables.

  • 3. Dan  |  December 31, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    We’d be better off if the Government would get out of the food & nutrition business and stick to ensuring food safety.

  • 4. Meredith Curry  |  December 31, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    {That Healthy Choice crap has too much starch and not enough protein or vegetables.}

    True. It just goes to show how marketing can be devious.

    In regards to the above article. I do believe their intentions are good, unfortunately it’s being channeled in the wrong direction. We are on a witch hunt to solve obesity, when in truth it takes admitting our ignorance and relearning what is truly healthy.

  • 5. M  |  January 1, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Very well said!


  • 6. Monday 090105 - Potomac CrossFit  |  January 5, 2009 at 1:00 am

    […] The only way this website could get better… Double Taxation on Soft Drinks […]

  • 7. Matt Metzgar  |  January 7, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    I live in New York state and have mixed feelings about this tax. You are correct about the farm bill – it is ridiculuous and should be altered. But given that the Farm Bill is done at the federal level, states can’t do much about it.

    So given the hand that states must play, I’m not sure if this is such a bad move. It may reduce the consumption of soft drinks. And who drinks that stuff anyways? It’s like drinking battery acid.

    I understand some may view this as an infringement on their personal rights, but the costs of obesity get spread over society anyways.

  • 8. LarryAJ  |  January 12, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    This tax is yet another manifestation of the “nanny state” syndrome that is slowly enveloping the world. Read this for more.

  • 9. Trinkwasser  |  January 19, 2009 at 9:38 am


    We’re getting it in the UK too with the Carbs4Life campaign

    We don’t have HFCS here, the damage is done IMO by all the wheat and wheat starch they stuff into everything low-fat. You can see why they do that if you look out my back window, the land is about 60% wheat and the only things that aren’t carbs are oilseed rape.

    Don’t blame the farmers, they are only growing what makes the least loss. The Food Industry uses carbs as their feedstock – buy cheap and sell expensive, they never make a loss.

    If your guys tax sugar and use the money to pay for a similar campaign to make you eat more Healthy Carbs, and ours tax fat for the same reason, expect to see an even greater increase in obesity. And diabetes. And cardiovascular disease. Oh wait a minute, aren’t those all the things that started to increase dramatically when the Heart Healthy Diet was first introduced? Hellooooo . . . . is there intelligent life anywhere in the government?

  • 10. jen  |  January 27, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    I agree with the comment about starting to reform some of the farming subsidies and regulations. Working for an organic farm here in Colorado, I got a first hand look into how hard it is for organic farmers to compete. Also, packaged and completely artificial foods are so much cheaper than fruits and vegetables nowdays. I nearly go broke trying to provide healthy meals for myself.


  • 11. Margaret Wilde  |  January 28, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    There is no evidence whatever to support the idea that cutting down on sugary drinks reduces obesity.

    There is abundant evidence that cutting down on salt and salty food reduces obesity. – And this is the case even if calorie intake is increased…(o: – You may like to tell that overweight gentleman you mentioned, Meredith Curry. I feel sure he’d welcome knowing that there is a safe, sure, fast, reliable way to lose weight without hunger, without dieting, without low-calorie junk, without drugs and without having to walk for an hour a day…(o:

    Lose weight by eating less salt! – Go on! – Try it! – You will feel so much better…(o:

  • 12. lctcathy  |  February 1, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Great Post!!

    Here’s what concerns me most. While we know that HFCS is horrible, there is still a perception entrenched that fat is also bad for you and how long before we are taxed on foods deemed “fatty” and therefore unhealthy by the false “low fat” proponents?

  • 13. damaged justice  |  February 2, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    “Ninety percent of all subsidies go to just five crops: corn, rice, cotton, wheat, and soybeans.” And by a not to astounding coincidence, all of these are bad for humans when ingested.

    “I understand some may view this as an infringement on their personal rights, but the costs of obesity get spread over society anyways.”

    If A is concerned about having to subsidize B’s poor choices, nutritional and otherwise, the moral solution is to stop forcing A to pay for B’s health care.

    Everyone gets to go to hell in their own handbasket.

  • 14. lctcathy  |  February 5, 2009 at 5:15 am

    As stupid as this is, I’m very concerned that they will try to take this further and put a tax on all food that they deem “unhealthy”, i.e. not low fat.

    As much as I think that full HFCS laden soda is extremely detrimental to our health, I’m worried that this will set a precedent.

  • 15. helen  |  February 11, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    “Hellooooo . . . . is there intelligent life anywhere in the government?”

    not that any one would notice. the minute some groovy little spin-doctor accountant type realised that there was money to be made in making laws to ban everything and tax or fine the transgressors life as we knew it went out the door. oh well i suggest ignoring the silly sods but most of us tend to focus so much on what is that we can’t even imagine a better world.

  • 16. Coyote  |  March 6, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Have you given up this blog? I miss you and you don’t even have a link to your column.

  • 17. Dana  |  March 26, 2009 at 6:14 am

    When did this stop being a low-carb blog and start being a libertarian screed? And comment #13 is classic. Way to go. People don’t know why they’re fat, they just get to die from diabetes and nobody will help them get even the substandard treatment that most American diabetics get now. Round of applause for you. Too bad it can’t be a .38 round instead because that’s what you’re wishing on my mom, my grandmother and half my family.

    Tell you what, when China invades the U.S., you hire your own damn security service. No reason we should have a military–if your house gets bombed it’s not my problem.


  • 18. Ryan  |  April 4, 2009 at 12:09 am

    I am concerned that the government could go a step further and start taxing other “unhealthy” things.

    What if they start taxing red meat? or butter?

  • 19. jake3_14  |  April 5, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    Is there even good evidence linking sugar consumption and body weight?
    A recent Australian study says “not a bit.”

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