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Beware of sugary drink tax: It might end up killing you

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POSTED April 26, 2013 1:01 a.m.

How many calories are in 16 ounces of orange juice? Try 220 calories.

How about 16 ounces of beer? It has some 200 calories.

What about the caloric count of 16 ounces of Red Bull? It comes in at 220 calories.

And how many calories are in 16 ounces of my favorite poison, strawberry-banana V8 Fusion? There’s a whopping 240 calories.

Which brings us to the $2.6 billion question: How many calories are in 16 ounces of Pepsi? There’s 200 calories.

The do-as-we-say-not as we-do folks are at it again.

California State Senator Bill Monning, D-Carmel, is pushing a one cent per ounce tax on soft drinks, energy drinks, and other sweetened beverages. Once in place, it will give the state $2.6 billion a year to create a bloated bureaucracy dubbed the Children’s Health Promotion Fund to fight childhood obesity.

That comes to $418.20 a year for each and every one of the 6,127,200 students enrolled in California public schools. Assuming one PE teacher for five sections with 30 students each costs $62,700 a year that would provide 13 years of PE and nutrition education to every young Californian.

We do not need another bureaucracy that promises to deliver something that it can’t. It is also debatable whether we need the tax. You could argue the justification for the tax is the direct result of the very House of Knaves up in Sacramento now seriously pondering the tax on sugary drinks.

It was the legislature’s insistence over the years on more college bound curriculum that forced the decline in physical education. It was the professional bureaucrats in Sacramento who dismissed PE as not being a serious discipline. The “everyone-must-go-to-college” mentality reached a crescendo under Bill Hoing’s elitist reign as Superintendent of Public Instruction. Hoing viewed PE as simply games and a class that warehoused kids.

You can see a correlation between killing off of PE requirements and childhood obesity. The trend was assured when PE classes were stuffed with 60 or so students per teacher. At the same time PE curriculum wasn’t evolving to stay up with the times.

One would think the K-12 school system with a serious commitment to PE at every level on every day of instruction in the same proportion as other disciplines would be much more effective than launching yet another bureaucracy.

That’s one reason to oppose the Monning madness.

Another reason is rooted in the nanny state argument. I apologize for being a tad vicious here as I don’t like to get down on people who may not fit what might be society’s ideal weight and health goals having myself tipped the scale once at 320 pounds. But have you ever taken a close look at the politicians up in Sacramento?

They don’t exactly look like the perfect picture of fitness and good health, do they?

It looks like many consume a bit too many empty calories although their poison of choice may not be sugary drinks.

Monning points out, “If you raise the price to be equivalent to healthful drinks, you’re reducing consumption, similar to the tobacco tax.”

Well, OK, so what is the excuse of overweight legislators? They make more on average than the typical California household and that’s before you count per diem checks. Perhaps we should tax martinis, steak, lobster and what other stuff some legislators obviously consume in excess in a bid to change their eating behavior.

If their pudginess is the result of being wined and dined by too many lobbyists, then maybe we need a law that taxes politicians $1,000 every time a lobbyist picks up a meal or a drink

Then there is the most obvious reason to oppose the sales tax proposal. It tries to tackle a fairly straight-forward problem that is complicated by individual wants, desires, weaknesses, and environment with a singular solution mentality.

Empty calories are bad but simply switching to what Monning calls “healthy drinks” is not an end-all solution.

I drink a minimum of three 46-ounce containers of V8 Fusion a week. That’s 138 ounces or 2,070 calories a week. That’s 345 calories more a week than if I drink the same amount of Pepsi. So no matter how healthy the V8 Fusion calories are, it they aren’t used I would gain 5.125 pounds a year.

I came to my current attitude toward eating, nutrition, and exercise not because I was taxed into doing so. There are jocks from my school days - those that nanny types would argue “get it” because they look healthy and aren’t overweight - who today are quite the opposite.

There are a lot of reasons why we go south and many of them have to do indirectly with previous government actions ranging from subsidizing the sugar industry for years to slashing back on PE requirements.

To take yet another solution from 120 people who would be hard-pressed to pass a nutrition and fitness test with flying colors is akin to drinking sugar-fee Kool-Aid from Jim Jones.

It may look harmless but in the end it will kill you.



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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