As an ex-smoker, I used to hate it when legislation was brought forward that would restrict where and when I could light up. It got to the point I was afraid to smoke anywhere as I was wondering from one moment to the next if my smoking was breaking some newly created law. The last straw which pushed me into quitting for good was when South Dakota decided to increase their tax revenues by excessively taxing a relatively small portion of the population with the added $1 per pack cigarette tax that took effect 2 years ago.
Now New York is looking to take that idea one step further by proposing an 18% sales tax on most non-diet type soda products, sort of a fat tax if you will.
Can taxing junk food solve the obesity crisis? This controversial idea has never been given a real-world tryout, but the combination of a budget busting fiscal crisis and a citizenry that keeps getting fatter is causing legislators and executives around the world to give a so-called “obesity tax” serious consideration. New York Governor David Paterson is the most serious of all, proposing in his 2009 state budget that an 18% sales tax be levied on non-diet soda and sugary juice drinks. Such a tax, he says, would raise $404 million in the fiscal year starting in April, and $539 million in the year after that—all to be earmarked for obesity-fighting public health programs.
With our current economic and societal woes, is taxing everything deemed bad for us going to be the fix du jour? The cigarette tax passed because the majority of folks didn’t smoke and sort of backfired as taxes collected actually decreased when smokers either quit like I did or went to other sources to buy their cigarettes. What will happen when the government gets around to increasing the taxes on something that affects a few more folks?
Keep an eye on New York, we just might find out.