2012-04-05

The Bigger Problem is That It's Delicious

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "nearly 3 out of 5 California voters" support a soda tax as a means to combat childhood obesity.

I take it as given that any calorie-dense, sugar-rich beverage that children enjoy drinking can reasonably be considered a contributing factor to obesity, so I will not dispute the article's underlying assumption. (I could provide heaps of anecdotal evidence in terms of children who grew up drinking massive amounts of soda pop without ever becoming obese, but we can leave that aside for the sake of argument.)

Given that soda contributes to childhood obesity - and obesity in general - there are two major factors at play here:

First, soda is inexpensive. Indeed, at approximately $3.84 per gallon, soda is one of the least expensive consumer liquids in the country. Obviously, a soda tax aims to tackle this particular factor head-on. The idea here is to increase the price of soda, making it less attractive (or accessible) to children who buy it, or their parents. However, the price of Coca-Cola would have double in order for it to begin to compete with orange juice. That would be quite a hefty tax; so hefty, in fact, that it is probably politically impossible to implement.

This brings us to the second factor, which is probably the more important one. Soda is delicious! Almost everybody loves that stuff. It's bubbly, it's refreshing, it's fun, and it's sweet. It has been a popular soft drink for at least a century.

If California voters really want to tackle the childhood obesity problem, they might be better off trying to make soda less delicious. May I suggest passing a law that mandates the inclusion of at least 8 parts white vinegar to 1 part Coca-Cola syrup? This would quite clearly make soda less preferable at any price. Children would certainly not prefer drinking a vinegar-soda mixture to the next-best alternative beverage. Problem solved.