Megan K. Utah

Tax the Sugar

Putting taxes on sugary products and drinks could be the solution to decreasing obesity and consumption rates nationwide.

Dear Future President,

It is no secret that obesity has been a battle that we as Americans have tried to fight for years. Americans know that broccoli is better for their bodies than a chocolate bar. So why is obesity still an issue? Why isn’t progression happening? So many solutions have been attempted to help make an influencing change, but the issue is that what we are trying to do in order to decrease obesity isn't working.

One of the most recognized movements is Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, which has helped improve school lunch options and vending machine snacks. The First Lady’s success has resulted in educating children and teens about how to eat healthier meals and encouraging them to exercise frequently. Although her campaign has been influential, her efforts alone aren’t enough. Friendly suggestions and recommendations will not change this country alone unless regulations are enforced. What we need is to get the government involved through the enforcement of taxing sugary products that are served at restaurants, sold at gas stations, and displayed on shelves in grocery stores.

Sugar has only recently been acknowledged as a main cause for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. During the 1980’s and 90’s, sugar became the alternative item that replaced fat in foods because of the idea that fat was a major cause for obesity. According to Anahad O’Connor, a journalist for the New York Times, the Sugar Research Foundation during the 1960’s paid three Harvard scientists to downplay the relationship between sugar and heart disease by putting the blame on saturated fat. The studies and documents were hand picked by the company and published by these three scientists, suggesting that saturated fat was a major reason for obesity and health issues, while instead, sugar was the real threat. What was the result? Because of this manipulation, Americans turned to sugar as a replacement, quickly becoming addicted to it, which then gave the companies producing sugary products the profit they were seeking.

We recognize that cigarettes are a big cause for lung cancer and that the nicotine is an addicting substance that gets smokers hooked on these products. Why should we treat sugar any different? The effects that cigarettes and sugar have are both similar because these substances destroy your health and are extremely addicting. If we see tobacco as a life threatening product, shouldn’t sugar be seen the same way? Sugary products need to be available with expensive restriction, just like cigarettes and tobacco are. According to Roberta R. Friedman, if we taxed a penny-per-ounce, it would raise the cost of the average sugary drink by about 15-20 percent. Purchasing these products would be out of the question for most people. It would come with a heavy price, both on your checking account and your body. This is how we can motivate people to become more healthy. Turning a customer’s focus from expensive junk food to better options will result in them buying a bag of apples instead of a bag of chocolate because the fruit will be cheaper.

There is no doubt that there will be addicted customers protesting this action, saying that the taxing of sugary products is a violation of their right to buy what foods they want. Companies producing the sugary products will fight back saying that these taxes will hurt their profit and success. And business owners selling the sugary products will be unhappy that sales are decreasing on these products that were once so popular. However, if we consider who the angry people would be, they are the people who are gaining the profit from these products, and the customers who are addicted to these products. Even though a certain group of people would be angry with this enforcement, it is more important to enforce a law that can help this nation become healthier rather than attend to the complaints from angry consumers and the companies selling these addicting products for profit.

Taxing sugary products will lower the amount of consumption, thus resulting in the lowering of obesity rates. This plan will urge Americans to focus on the basic, healthy foods they need instead of unnecessary products that are sugary and unhealthy. Customers will still have the option of buying unhealthy products, but it will come at the cost of a heavy tax, thus making it an expensive purchase.

What are the benefits of doing this? How do we know that this can help our nation’s situation? Writing in the The Week, Alexis Boncy states that when, “Berkeley, California became the first city to institute such a tax, in the fall of 2014... in the first year after it took effect the consumption of sugary drinks dropped by 20 percent.” From this small statistic, we can see that when taxes rise, consumption rates drop down. In order to improve people’s health, taxing needs to be enforced by the government. This could be the very thing that can drop down obesity rates and improve our nation’s health.

I can testify that Americans have easy access to junk food because I am the one seeing it everywhere. Taxing sugary products is the answer to our problems because this solution will decrease obesity in America. If individuals can not take into their own hands the responsibility of eating healthy, then a tax will be the factor that can influence their choices. This situation is in your hands as the leader of this country. Your influence could save this nation. I leave you with one question: How far would you dare to go to help America?


Megan Kay

Spanish Fork High School

AP Language 16-17

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