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Soda Taxes

by johnk Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2018 at 5:19 AM

I wanted to open a discussion about the soda tax and other ways to try and discourage drinking sugary drinks.

This is a two part show about the soda taxes being passed, or not, around the country. We recently had an attempted soda tax over in El Monte, but it failed.

Part 1:

https://gastropod.com/souring-on-sweet-the-great-soda-wars-part-1/

Part 2:

https://gastropod.com/dirty-tricks-and-data-the-great-soda-wars-part-2/

While I personally like the idea of reducing soda and juice consumption, because I have done it myself, and I lack a sweet tooth, I have to wonder if this tax is really driven by a kind of "class warfare" by the upper middle class against the behaviors of poor people.

The soda tax feels like a "sin tax".

The fact that taxes seem to be the universal "solution" is also fraught with problems: they have no effect on people with enough money to pay it.

A penny per ounce tax on a big soda would be 32 cents.

It's not going to have a big effect, because the vendors already switch the prices up and down more than that right now.

Other drinks with sugar are alcoholic drinks, which are not being taxed for sugars, but if they were, the tax would be miniscule compared to the price of the drink.

Additionally, if liquid sugar consumption is such a problem, maybe they should be banned outright or rationed.

There's also the dynamic with communities of color. I think the tax didn't pass in El Monte because communities of color aren't yet on board with the idea of soda taxes. I don't get the sense that it's being discussed.

It may be, once again, that these new social policies are circulating in a strata of the media that's elite. Consider the linked podcasts. The sound like they're from public radio.

The other thing is, working class communities don't have as much disposable income, so small businesses within these communities tend to sell things that deliver a lot of pleasure for the dollar. Sugary drinks are a way to make money.

In El Monte the community is almost entirely Latino, with a sizeable Vietnamese Asian community. One business opportunity is selling sugary non-soda drinks: jugos (juices), aguas (juices), raspados (snow cones with syrup), boba (tapioca ball teas), cafe de sua (sweetened drip coffee), and "snow" (shaved ice/snow cones). These are not soda, but would be subject to taxes.

The problem here is that these drinks carry a lot of cultural weight with them. Consuming them is a way of "being" Mexican or Vietnamese or Chinese, and also "being" Latino or Asian generally, locally. When people who are not of the "inside" culture, they are coming from "outside" to consume and have a kind of alliance with the culture.

I don't know if that had anything to do with the defeat of the soda tax in El Monte, but it couldn't have helped.

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