THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Don't Tax Soda, Tax Fat Soda Drinkers

Congress has recently proposed the Soda Tax which would add an
additional tax to all soft drinks because of their sugar content. The
theory, some in Congress suggest, will force Americans to not consume
these drinks because they will not want to pay the higher tax. While
the goal of forcing Americans to stop consuming simple carbohydrates
is a noble one, the current proposal will not work because it will not
change American's addiction to sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
After all, if you tax sugar in Coke, they'll just buy Oreos.


Obesity continues to skyrocket out of control; treatment for related
diseases costs roughly $147 Billion annually. It doesn't matter in
what food simple carbohydrates are hidden, it's the result of eating
too many of them that matters. Its time to face the facts: Simple
carbohydrates are an addicting drug. Any human culture, if exposed to
simple carbohydrates, will always start eating them and often to the
exclusion of other foods. As an example, Hispanics and American
Indians, healthy for generations, now are being ravaged by obesity and
diabetes, all because of a newfound food: simple carbohydrates.
During the years 1990-1998, when the low fat movement was taking hold,
the number of young American Indians with Diabetes increased 71%. The
rates for young Hispanics doubled during the same period. Of these,
over 90% were overweight or obese.


Tax sugars and carbs all you want, you won't stop their consumption.
For all the government warning labels, TV and magazine bans, and
outrageous taxes on tobacco, smokers only stopped when the
consequences of using the drug became unpleasant. Smoking seriously
subsided only when "lighting up" became physically difficult -- when it
was banned from buildings, restaurants, and bars.


There are two ways to slow obesity: One, limit where and when simple
carbohydrates can be used (it worked in World War II). Or two, tax
the consequences of their overuse. The first choice is legislatively
improbable and not within the government's jurisdiction but the second
could work.


Compare Americans' coffee consumption with our Italian counterparts:
where most Italians walk to get their Espresso and may add a packet of
sugar (3 gms) to it, Americans will drive to get a "light" Frappocino
and pick it up from the drive-through window. And although both cups
contain the same amount of coffee, the Frappocino has over 12 times
more sugar (37gms). Compound this by 365 and its no wonder we're an
obese Nation.


It is only when the result of overusing simple carbohydrates becomes
unpleasant that the epidemic will be reversed. We pay by weight for
much of what we want so we should pay by our own physical weight too.
Bananas are purchased by the pound, our airline luggage has weight
limits and financial penalties, and the trucks that carry our cargo is
taxed according to its weight. It only makes sense that if we want to
be fat, then we should pay a tax to cover the consequences to society
we know are coming. Taxing the consequences of behavior (the
overuse), not the behavior itself is a better solution.

Steven R. Gundry, MD, FACC, FACS is the Medical Director and Founder
of The International Heart and Lung Institute, Palm Springs, CA and
author of the "Dr. Gundry's Diet Evolution: Turn Off the Genes that
are Killing You" from Crown Publishing.