December 18th, 2008
03:11 PM ET

Why we need an obesity tax

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/HEALTH/12/18/paterson.obesity/art.david.paterson.gi.jpg caption="New York Gov. David Paterson says taxing soft drinks could help combat obesity."]

Editor's note: David Paterson, a Democrat, is governor of New York.

David Paterson
Special to CNN

Like many New Yorkers, I remember a time when nearly everyone smoked. In 1950, Collier's reported that more than three-quarters of adult men smoked. This epidemic had a devastating and long-lasting impact on public health.

Today, we find ourselves in the midst of a new public health epidemic: childhood obesity.

What smoking was to my parents' generation, obesity is to my children's generation. Nearly one out of every four New Yorkers under the age of 18 is obese. In many high-poverty areas, the rate is closer to one out of three.

That is why, in the state budget I presented last Tuesday, I proposed a tax on sugared beverages like soda. Research has demonstrated that soft-drink consumption is one of the main drivers of childhood obesity.

For example, a study by Harvard researchers found that each additional 12-ounce soft drink consumed per day increases the risk of a child becoming obese by 60 percent. For adults, the association is similar.

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Filed under: Health Care • Medical News
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Gabriel Ellis

    obesity kills people, lots of diseases are triggered by obesity*-.

    October 5, 2010 at 6:01 am |
  2. Joanne, Solvay, NY

    As a New Yorker, I must object! This is worse then the taxation without representation that fueled The Boston Tea Party!

    Also, the Governor wants to tax health club memberships! How does that support healthy living?

    December 18, 2008 at 5:50 pm |
  3. Diane - IL

    I don't see how one type of food can be targeted. And why stop at sugared beverages? What about other high sugar products or even worse high fat content foods such as potato chips? I hope the NY legislators don't pass this new tax. Better to focus on increasing time in physical education classes, and improved school lunches. Though if Gov. Paterson wants revenue to fund health care, how about a tax on commercials of sugared products that are targeted to children?

    December 18, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  4. Kevin

    Of course if more taxation is applied to soft drinks and perhaps candy, they will be able to drop the sales tax a percent or two on all other items, right? Hardly; the idea is to suck us dry by creating new 'do good' reasons to tax us. They could give a crap about our health as long as they can think of more ways to get in our pockets..

    December 18, 2008 at 4:58 pm |
  5. Heather,ca

    I understand the thinking behind his views, however self responsibily and awareness of choices is what is ultimately responsible for the current health problems many americans face. Smoking doesnt cause obesity. Obesity is caused by eating more high calorie food and excercising less. Smoking causes causes. Taxing smoking is smart. For some reason I dont think the McDs of today is the same as the McDs of the past when it started. I think the ingredients used to cook and prepare and well as the meat used and everything else is different. I dont eat fast food and that means all fast food and processed food. If I cant pronounce the ingredients forget I wont eat it. I understand taxing for smoking because its addictive and causes cancer and you have to be a certain age, but taxing for eating convience food. That would make people say ok then what is considered convience food and it would be a big debate and I just dont see it being fair. The reasoning is meant well but not realistic.

    December 18, 2008 at 4:45 pm |
  6. Peregrine

    Do you not realize that the REASON the rate of obesity is higher in poverty stricken areas is due the sort of food low-income people are forced to eat?

    Cheap meals that "stick to your ribs" are necessary when many times there is only one meal being eaten on a daily basis because there's simply not enough money to prepare three meals.

    And no, going without food doesn't promote weight loss, it simply slows the metabolism and tricks the body into "starvation mode" so that more calories are stored rather than burned.

    It's a vicious cycle and one that must be addressed, taxing those who are already poor isn't the answer.

    December 18, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
  7. Jennifer

    I find this article quite hilarious! Only put blame on non-diet beverages and tax away and all of your problems with childhood obesity will vanish! That's great news! Listen up kids, you can stay in front of that television or video games, continue to decrease your movement and you won't have a problem unless you drink non-diet beverages!

    December 18, 2008 at 3:56 pm |
  8. Jen

    Let's just tax everything. It will make everything better!

    December 18, 2008 at 3:51 pm |

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