- Days left

Lawmakers create a "fat tax" for non-diet sodas

The Governor of New York, David Paterson, plans to unveil Tuesday a budget that includes an "obesity tax" of about 15% on all drinks that aren't low-calorie.

As the New York Daily News puts it, under the proposed tax a Diet Coke might cost $1, while an identical serving of regular Coke would be charged at $1.15. That's before the bottle deposit, which in New York State is 5¢ per container. Milk, even the whole-fat version, would not be taxed at that heightened rate, and water would be exempt, too.

In response, a spokesperson from the American Academy of Pediatrics praised the notion, claiming that jacking the price of such "liquid candy" would make kids healthier. Notice that the group didn't cite any proof that the 15¢ rise would dissuade anyone from buying a drink, because no such proof exists.

Now that manufacturers have filtered trans fats out of many foods, they are replacing partially hydrogenated oils with other types. Which of these should you be avoiding, too?

  • Soybean oil
  • Palm oil
  • Corn oil

You're stuck in a breakfast meeting and starving. Which would be the lowest-calorie choice from the tray of baked goodies?

  • Blueberry muffin
  • Butter croissant
  • Cinnamon chip scone

You need potassium to keep your metabolism revved and muscles strong. Which of these offers the most?

  • One medium baked sweet potato
  • One cup of fat-free yogurt
  • One medium banana

If you must have chips, which of these is the most nutritious?

  • Banana chips
  • Veggie chips
  • Potato chips

Calcium is key to building bones, but which of these dairy foods is NOT a good source?

  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt smoothie
  • Fat-free milk

Which salty snack contains the most sodium?

  • One sourdough pretzel
  • 17 salt-and-vinegar potato chips
  • A quarter cup of salted peanuts

Which of these salad toppings will set you back the most calories?

  • Roasted almonds
  • Butter-garlic croutons
  • Crispy chicken

Drinking Vitamin Water is a good substitute for taking a daily multivitamin.

  • True
  • False


Science may not bear out the claim that sugary sodas are necessarily more destructive than ones sweetened with chemicals, by the way -- they may just be destructive in a different way. In February, a Perdue University study showed that consumers who drink diet sodas may, in fact, gain more weight than those who stick to the non-diet ones sweetened with the industry standby, high fructose corn syrup.

The implication, I guess, is that Diet Coke is as healthy as water. That's ludicrous. The chemicals used in diet sodas, so the study suggests, changes your metabolism in a way that makes you more susceptible to getting fat. Or so that's the theory. We haven't lived with artificial sweeteners long enough to truly determine their effect over lifetimes and generations.

This isn't the first time that a local government has tried to pay for shortfalls by taxing sweet things. Last winter, San Francisco tried to place taxes on soft drinks made with high fructose corn syrup (and not ones made with sugar) in an effort to pay for things that might battle obesity, like bike paths and nutrition education. The Center for Science in the Public Interest came out against the tax, which was geared toward attacking corn syrup and left sugar alone, a major reason it never gained traction. Gov. Paterson's proposed tax doesn't put corn syrup in the bulls eye, although because of its ubiquity in sugary drinks, it's still the essential target.

There's little doubt that high fructose corn syrup is a cheap, industrial-grade ingredient that, somehow, Americans have been coddled into accepting in nearly everything they eat. From soda to bread to ketchup to steak sauce, you'll find the stuff has replaced more unprocessed ingredients, like sugar, as manufacturers try to cut costs as deeply as possible. Just try to purchase items without the stuff, and you'll be spending a lot of time reading labels in the grocery store aisle.

If you could track the rise of American obesity, you'd find that our waist sizes and diabetes rates grew almost precisely with the growing use of high fructose corn syrup, which started finding its way into nearly everything within the past 20 years.

That hasn't stopped the high fructose corn syrup industry from launching some pretty snide propaganda commercials aimed at shutting down anyone with complaints about its deleterious effects. The fact is that sweeteners in general aren't ideal. Recent studies indicate that sugar has the same effects on cravings as illicit drugs.

But taxing sugar drinks? I strongly doubt the new tax would be enough to keep anyone from drinking the stuff. A price bump like that wouldn't be distinguishable from slight inflation. I doubt most people would notice much. If government officials have reason to believe that high fructose corn syrup is dangerous, then I wish they would launch a proper study and prove it once and for all, like it did for nicotine. If they can do that, then they can get away with a sin tax that's a lot more lucrative than 15%.

Besides, if our government thinks that corn syrup is so bad for us -- so bad for us that it wants to tax us for eating it -- why is it subsidizing its manufacture through the corn industry? That floods the market with corn products and has resulted in sugar becoming something of a luxury ingredient. Taste a Coke made in Mexico, where real sugar is still used, and you'll notice a difference in flavor. It also takes about 75 gallons of water to produce just one pound of corn, and that inefficient ratio affects everyone -- or will eventually. If the government is so concerned about cleaning up our diets, it shouldn't take the fight to our wallets before it curtails the industry handouts that make corn syrup so prevalent to begin with.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Getting out of debt

Everyone hates debt. Get out of it.

View Course »

Basics Of The Stock Market

Stock Market 101 - everything you need to know but were afraid to ask!

View Course »

TurboTax Articles

5 Tax Tips for Single Moms

If you're a single mom filing your taxes, make use of tax credits and deductions that can help reduce your taxable income and reduce the amount of tax you pay. A number of strategies, credits and deductions can be used to reduce taxable income, and in some cases, allow tax refunds even if you didn't pay in any taxes. When you use TurboTax, we'll ask simple questions and handle these calculations for you.

Essential Tax Forms for the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also referred to as Obamacare, affects how millions of Americans will prepare their taxes in the new year. The law now includes penalties for all who haven?t obtained health insurance -- and those penalties are expected to be paid at tax time. The ACA also provides tax credits to help people pay for insurance, and you can claim those credits when you file your taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has introduced a number of tax forms to accommodate the ACA.

What is Form 1095-A: Health Insurance Marketplace Statement

If you bought health insurance through one of the Health Care Exchanges, also known as Marketplaces, you will receive a Form 1095-A which provides information about your insurance policy, your premiums (the cost you pay for insurance) and the people in your household covered by the policy.

Keeping Yourself Safe From Tax Scams Today

During tax time, there are numerous types of tax scams. These illegal schemes can result in the taxpayer being responsible for extra interest, penalties and possible criminal prosecution. Tax schemes and scams attempt to gain access to your financial information by email, telephone, fax or mail. They also may attempt to falsely collect tax you owe to the Internal Revenue Service. Using TurboTax ensures your financial information remains safe.

Health Care and Your Taxes: What's the Connection?

Your cost for Marketplace health insurance is based on the income you file on your tax return. Your reported income also determines your eligibility for the tax credits and penalties associated with Marketplace health coverage. Everyone has to have health insurance and by filing your taxes, you let the government know if you carry health insurance. The tax system acts as a way for the government to levy a penalty on those who don?t have it and to provide assistance, by means of a tax credit, to those who do.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum