Just weeks after the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors on the November ballot, word is spreading that they are talking over the possibility of a tax on soda in an effort to reduce obesity.
Soda taxes have recently made headlines in cities like Richmond, Calif. and New York City, begging the question, just how much should our government be involved in our health and lifestyle choices?
The suggestion of a soda tax in San Mateo County came on the heels of a recent post on the County Health System's website, entitled, "A Soda Tax Could Help Us Stop Pouring On the Pounds."
The post declares that "there is a direct link between sugary drinks and obesity," and states that obesity and the diseases caused by it cost the United States roughly $147 billion each year.
Specifically, the post said that half a million dollars is spent on obesity-related health care costs right here in San Mateo County each year.
The post also quotes a recent study published in the medical journal Health Affairs that suggests that taxing soda and other sugary drinks by one cent per ounce "could prevent 2.4 million cases of diabetes a year, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 premature deaths over 10 years." Also, in June, the American Medical Association endorsed soda taxes as an effective way for municipalities to pay for anti-obesity programs.
On a more serious note, the Health System's post stated, "It’s become clear that trying to get people to eat less and exercise more is not going to turn this obesity epidemic around."
However, despite the support by the County Board of Supervisors and the County Health System, a poll attached to the Health System's post suggested that local residents are divided over the issue.
Fifty-one percent of the 403 respondents said they didn't think such a tax would make a difference. Only 41 percent said they thought it would help, and 7 percent indicated they weren't sure.
However, local residents can rest assured - at least for the time being - that the County Supervisors are still in the "mulling it over" phase of their discussion, and currently have no official plans to discuss the idea of such a tax in an official capacity, or put it up for a vote, just yet, according to an article in the San Jose Mercury News in which reporters spoke to representatives for Supervisor Rose Jacobs-Gibson.
The article also states that Gibson is scheduled to host a discussion event on the issue of sugary drinks and their relation to obesity, and the idea of taxes as a potential solution to the problem, in October. Reportedly, representatives from the city of Richmond, Calif. have been invited to speak on how the City's proposed soda tax has been going over with voters.
PATCH WANTS TO KNOW - What do you think of the idea of a countywide tax on sodas or other sugary beverages? Do you think it could help reduce obesity? Or is it none of the County's business what we choose to drink? Will people who like to drink soda just keep buying it anyway?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.