Does anyone really think that Assemblyman Bill Monning's proposed tax on sugary drinks will reduce childhood obesity?
Monning, the Carmel Democrat who represents much of Santa Cruz County in the Assembly, has the best of intentions. And maybe the plan to tax sugar drinks at the rate of a penny an ounce will raise some much-needed money. But the tax, sadly, really wouldn't do much about the problem.
The idea brings to mind H.L. Mencken's famous line: "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong." Slapping a tax on soda pops really won't solve childhood obesity. Even if it does reduce soda consumption -- and that's far from clear -- the problem will stay with us.
Take a look at some real data. Two researchers, Sarah Anderson of Ohio State University of Public Health and Dr. Robert Whitaker of Temple University answer the following question in a recent issue of MedPage Today: Want to protect your preschooler from obesity?
Here's what they recommend:
1.Eat dinner as a family six or seven times a week.
2. Limit the time the child watches TV to less than two hours a day.
3. Make sure he or she gets more than 10.5 hours of sleep a night.
Those three things, according to research, would reduce the chance of obesity by 40 percent. Add to those, of course, getting more exercise.
Or, consider these words, from Dr. Thomas Inge, principal investigator at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center: “The reasons for weight gain are complex and multifactorial, influenced by genetics, environment, eating and physical activity habits, and society."
So how does a government address those solutions? It doesn't, at least with a simple act. It's far easier to pick out a bad guy -- the soda pop companies -- and enact a tax. Easy answer. But not an effective one.
The political arena, sadly, is generally not the place to find sound scientific solutions. Yeah, it's probably better if children and adults alike cut down on the sugar drinks. And the soda pop tax will resonate with those who want to penalize big business. But it really wouldn't do much to solve the problem of childhood obesity.