Chicago’s execrable soda tax

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.”  —John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

Nearly every day at lunch I have two sandwiches (I’m starting to cut out carbs now and have a salad), a piece of fruit, perhaps a cut-up tomato or baby carrots, and a diet soda. That, I think, is a pretty healthy lunch, especially as my sandwiches contain either peanut butter, tuna, hummus, or sometimes just a ripe tomato with mayonnaise.

I usually buy the diet soda at the grocery store, and there are always sales so that I can get a two-liter bottle for about a dollar. (I favor A&W diet root beer, Diet Squirt, a grapefruit soda, or Diet Cherry 7-Up.)

Last week the price of my lunch went up, as Cook County, which includes Chicago, passed an execrable tax on all “sweetened drinks”, and it’s a big tax: a penny per ounce. That increases the price of a can of soda by 12¢, and my two liter bottles by 64¢: a 64% increase!

Most sweetened drinks are taxed, including sodas in restaurants, sweetened fruit drinks (like Sunny D), and, as the Tribune reported “ready-to-drink sweetened coffee drinks. . . [but not on-demand, custom-sweetened beverages, such as those mixed by a server or barista, or a handmade Frappuccino]”, and probably bar drinks made with soda (like the Cuba Libre: rum and Coke). Regular fruit juices and concentrates aren’t taxed. Why a Frappuccino would not be taxed but a rum and Coke would defies reason.

The ostensible rationale for this was to cut down on public consumption of sugar, and to reduce obesity. I object to this in general because it’s a paternalistic attempt of government to control the diet of its citizens. If they want to do this, why not put some taxes on candy bars, potato chips, fast food like McDonald’s, and triple the tax on cigarettes (it’s already among the highest in the U.S., for a pack of smokes costs $12-$14 in Chicago)? The soda tax, which constitutes a palpable financial harm to many, violates Mill’s dictum above.

Now you’ll be saying that “obesity imposes costs on the public, for obese people get more government health care than slimmer people, and die earlier, contributing less to society.” I find that an unconscionable paternalism, because if you follow it logically, you’d tax everything that contributes substantially to obesity, including, in the U.S., fast food at places like McDonald’s and Taco Bell—massive contributors to our weight problem.

So you might then respond, “But soda is a major contributor to obesity, too!” But if you say that, you’re going to have to do a study of the major contributors to American obesity, and then tax the culprits proportionately.

And here the important thing is this: there is virtually no evidence that diet sodas contribute to obesity, or other health problems. Yes, people have thought of reasons they could (make you seek sugar in other foods by giving you a sweet tooth, etc.), but the evidence for this is very thin, and certainly not sufficient to include diet sodas with the taxed sugary sodas. To confect such rationales means that you’re just a Pecksniff, worried that people might enjoy a diet soda, and eager to keep them from doing so without much evidence. In fact, taxing sugary sodas but not diet ones would improve people’s health by getting them to switch to the diet stuff, which by all accounts is healthier.

Here’s my solution: since one of the biggest contributors to obesity is the consumption of carbohydrates, of which sugar is one, we need a tax on bread–a CARB TAX. That could also include pasta as well, and beer (but not so much wine). I’m only kidding, of course.

The whole thing is ridiculous, for the rationale for the tax doesn’t jibe with its implementation. But, as all of us citizens of Cook County realize, this is not really why the tax is being enacted. Our county is in a severe financial crisis, as is much of Illinois, and this tax is a way to get lots of dough: as much as $561 million per year.  The county can pass such a tax because it has the excuse of controlling health, whereas a simple increase in income tax doesn’t have that excuse.

I think the government’s responsibility is to make consumers aware of health risks, but it’s on slippery ground when it tries to control people’s diets (I’m dubious, too, of cigarette and alcohol taxes). Someone’s diet should be their choice, not the government’s, and, at any rate, where does it end? I’m less concerned about things like seat belt laws because many who wear them are too young to make an informed decision, and they’re not as harmful to the pocketbook of the individual.

Here are some calories in the UNTAXED Starbuck’s barista drinks; each is for a 16 ounce serving. By comparison, a 16 ounce regular Coke has about 180 calories:

  • Caramel Brulée Frappuccino – 300 calories
  • Caramel Brulée Frappuccino Light – 180 calories
  • Caramel Frappuccino Blended Beverage – 410 calories
  • Caramel Frappuccino Light Blended Beverage – 140 calories
  • Cinnamon Dolce Crème Frappuccino Blended Beverage – 350 calories
  • Cinnamon Dolce Frappuccino Blended Beverage – 350 calories
  • Chocolate Smoothie – 300 calories
  • Orange Mango Smoothie – 270 calories
  • Strawberry Smoothie – 300 calories
  • Peppermint Mocha – 330 calories
  • Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha – 440 calories
  • Pumpkin Spice Latte – 310 calories
  • Salted Caramel Mocha – 330 calories
  • Iced Peppermint Mocha – 260 calories
  • Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha – 380 calories
  • Caramel Macchiato – 240 calories
  • Cinnamon Dolce Latte – 260 calories
  • Eggnog Latte – 460 calories
  • Hot Chocolate – 290 calories
  • Peppermint Hot Chocolate – 360 calories
  • Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate – 360 calories
  • White Hot Chocolate – 420 calories

Given that a soda tax is quite clearly a preferential tax on the poor, does the remission for Starbuck’s reflect a concern for the rich?

Welcome to the Nanny State!



  1. Randy schenck
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I saw this in the news yesterday and figured it would not take long. The nanny state is here to stay. Just wait until they put a tax on Pie – it will be war for sure.

    I thought I had heard it all when years ago in England I discovered a tax on Televisions. I think it was more if the TV was color. But $12 bucks for a pack of cigs! Good grief. I am the same age as PCC and I remember when cigs were a quarter a pack at the convenience store. So today, only the rich can afford to kill themselves with cigarettes.

    • Ralph
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      There is still a “TV license” in the UK, used to fund the BBC. And it’s significant – almost $200 per year. The price is one third that amount if you have a black and white TV, but only half off if you’re blind. I’m not quite sure I follow the logic of that.

      There were dubious tales of TV detector vans that would roam the streets and nab you if you were watching a TV without a license.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        Wow, I think the tax way back when I was there – maybe $20 bucks for a color TV. Maybe the money goes to the BBC?

        • Frank Bath
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

          Yes, the compulsory UK TV licence is £145.50 per household per year for colour. 40p a day. This goes to the BBC which serves as a public broadcaster. BBC radio and on line services, overseas etc., are free to everybody.
          The idea is to make the BBC independent of govt control and free from commercial pressure. TV companies hate it because it eats tremendously into their audience – and profits – as do those who claim it is right wing propaganda/left wing propaganda.
          It’s a British ‘muddle through’ and it works!
          (Ex WS BBC radio employee. Not biassed.)

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

            I will not complain as the BBC puts out some of the best there is on TV for us over here in the states. And today, when we pay 50 to 100 bucks a month for Television on cable or sat, at least the BBC is still there putting out some quality.

            • Alric
              Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

              I’ve never understood this logic. People lose their minds about paying a small tax but have no problem getting fleeced by wireless carriers and cable companies.

          • Mike
            Posted August 7, 2017 at 7:12 am | Permalink

            Well they certainly blew the “unbiased” myth during the last GE, so we can put that myth to bed.Only 2 yrs to go and I am Licence Free.!

            • Posted August 7, 2017 at 7:28 am | Permalink

              How did they blow the unbiased myth that isn’t a myth?

              • Mike
                Posted August 7, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

                So your saying that the BBC coverage of Jeremy Corbyn was fair and unbiased.?

              • Posted August 7, 2017 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

                Are you saying it wasn’t? Can you cite specific examples?

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        NZ used to have TV licenses. We got rid of them just over 20 years ago, and the government continued to fund what the licence funded at the same rate as before. It didn’t just fund public TV, but also public radio, some films, and other stuff. Everyone called it a TV licence, but its actual name was broadcasting licence and there was a discount if you didn’t own a TV.

        There were detector vans that would go around checking if you were watching TV without a licence, but they just reported back. They didn’t tackle anyone directly.

        A TV license is inefficient, difficult and costly to administer, and wasteful. It saved so much by including it in normal taxes that a tax increase wasn’t required.

        A remember a guy coming around one Saturday morning, tackling me in the garden as I was hanging out the laundry, saying I had to pay him for the licence I didn’t have. I actually did have a licence, and despite him turning up on a big motorcycle wearing leathers I gave him a talking to. He was a lot less tough than he looked. I guessed he would probably be a loser in reality, which is why I took the risk. Also, my backyard was really open and I could be seen. He then pretended to make a phone call, after which he told me everything was okay, and it was a mistake. It turned out he was going around tackling single women who lived alone, assuming they would be elderly and easy to dominate and had nothing to do with the licensing authority. He was caught, but I don’t know what happened to him.

        • TJR
          Posted August 7, 2017 at 6:41 am | Permalink

          I’m sure it would be much more efficient like that, as you say.

          But we all know perfectly well that if the licence fee was abolished and the BBC funded out of general taxation instead, the BBC would then be privatised within a couple of years.

        • Posted August 7, 2017 at 7:30 am | Permalink

          With the current arrangement in the UK, the BBC is able to maintain at least some independence from the government. I would not change it.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted August 7, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

            We don’t have a problem with criticism of government in the media. In fact NZ is known to be more open than almost every country regarding press freedom (there’s an international index). I think we’re 2nd= at the moment. Norway is usually #1.

            • Posted August 7, 2017 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

              No, but with a broadcaster that is funded out of direct taxation, there is always the danger that the government will put undue pressure on it. The British system is not immune to that, but it is a bit better. In particular, because the licence fee is separate to normal taxation, the BBC is seen to be not an extension of the government.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted August 7, 2017 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

                It’s not seen as an extension here either, and it clearly works fine as our press is internationally recognized as being far more free than that in Britain.


          • Heather Hastie
            Posted August 7, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

            The UK is about 25th, which is better than the US.

    • pdx1jtj
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Indeed. Back in the day, cigs were free to convicts and GIs*. There used to be a saying “If they’re free, you’re not; if you’re free they’r not”

      *You’d get a small pack in every C-rat — they were great for trading for favors from smokers or locals :-).

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        Way back when I was in the military and they had me on all expenses paid tour of the UK I was buying cigs in the Commissary for $1.70 a carton. Before I got out they had gone up to $1.90 per carton. That would be 19 cents a pack. The way the commissary works is, everything is cost plus 5%. No tax.

      • Lee Roseberry
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        Following WWII there was a surplus of C-rations. Every base was required to serve them one day a week. My father traveled to multiple bases every week and managed to hit C-ration day several times a week. He’d bring them home to us kids and we thought they were wonderful, but he always removed the cigarettes first.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        In NZ, a 20-pack of cigarettes costs around $30 I think. Smoking is the biggest health hazard here, and the government provides free healthcare to everyone, so it’s a form of user pays.

        The price goes up every year and has done for a while. Most political parties support the tax and share a goal of making NZ smoke free. Research has shown that the best way to stop people smoking is price, especially as it’s mostly the poor who smoke.

        Stop smoking programmes, nicotine patches, 24 hour support via phone etc are all available free of charge to help smokers quit.

        However, it has resulted in greater thefts from stores that sell cigarettes, tobacco etc. The government is helping smaller stores pay the costs of greater security measures.

        Younger NZers, who grew up in the anti-smoking environment, pretty universally consider smoking very un-cool.

        • rickflick
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

          $30 a pack! Wow! That would discourage just about anybody except the exceptionally addicted. I’d be surprised if some people didn’t plant tobacco in the back yard like we used to do with rope.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

            So that’s what those hemp plants were for?

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

            I’d be surprised if some people didn’t plant tobacco in the back yard like we used to do with rope.

            That’s what they’re afraid of – and so it provides a cap to the tax. As does personal import (legal) or smuggling (illegal) from abroad. At my smoking rates, I could (legally) bring back around 6-8 moths worth every out-of-EU trip, so I did. I’m occasionally having to pay UK tax rates now, and it’s rather annoying.
            Hmmm, grow my own. It’s worth considering.

    • Posted August 7, 2017 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      The TV tax, actually called the “TV Licence” – but it is a tax in all but name – is how the BBC is funded.

      So you can thank me for the existence of all those wonderful David Attenborough documentaries they produce, as well as Doctor Who.

  2. Randy Bessinger
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I guess when it comes to cigarettes, for me, the question is does cost act as a deterrent? If so, I am far high cigarette taxes. Taxes on sugary drinks seems dumb to me.

    • Randy Bessinger
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      “For not far”

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      The logic for the two taxes is exactly the same. Refined sugars are responsible, pretty clearly, for the large majority of dental caries in modern populations, and from multiple lines of evidence, for a considerable proportion of diabetes and obesity. If you’ve got public health services, then both taxes are pretty similarly justifiable. (Of course, that’s a far more open question in America than it is in the civilized world.)

      • rickflick
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

        “…more open question in America than it is in the civilized world.”

        Wince! As an American I’ll take civilization any time, but first I’ve got to get Trump off my back. Pray for US.

    • Posted August 7, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      Taxes on sugary drinks may or may not be dumb, but taxes on drinks that contain artificial sweeteners certainly are dumb. At least, they are dumb if your given reason for the tax is to prevent obesity.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted August 7, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        Not necessarily. One way to combat obesity is to encourage healthy eating habits that include unprocessed, natural foods with a high ratio of nutrition to calories. It that case it would be dumb to carve out a loophole for highly processed products that use artificial sweeteners to compensate for low nutritional value.

  3. KD33
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Don’t agree. Justifications given for tobacco and alcohol taxes are the huge costs that their use poses to society. While I agree in principle that people should be free to do/consume what they like, if there’s a collective cost for bad choices I have no problem with a mechanism that covers that cost. Implementing such a mechanism should require hard data, for which there is not shortage for tobacco and alcohol. As for the statement that there’s little or no evidence that sodas don’t contribute to obesity, this simply can’t be true. I can’t pull up any particular study right now (I’ll look), but my recollection is there are numerous articles connecting Type I diabetes to the rise in sugary soda consumption, especially in kids. What is your basis for saying otherwise?

    • KD33
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Here’s one that took a minute to find.

      There is some confusion because switching to diet soda’s does not help for many people.

    • Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Did you READ the piece; I said there is no convincing evidence that DIET sodas contribute to obesity.

      Here: read it again: there is virtually no evidence that diet sodas contribute to obesity.

      • dabertini
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        RIGHT-ON!! PCC(E) you had a post showing a world map which indicated countries in bright red having the highest obesity rates. Those countries were also associated with having an over abundance of food. We eat too much. Too much protein, too much fat, too much carb. Most people would be alarmed if they saw how little they needed to maintain a healthy body weight. The science is clear: eat food, not too much, mainly plants.

        • mikeyc
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

          The solution to the obesity crisis; “Eat food. Not much. Mostly plants.”

          • mikeyc
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

            Oops. How embarrassing. I see you have the quote in your very last sentence. Derp.

            • Frank Bath
              Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

              If it’s not in your granny’s larder leave it alone.

          • Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

            The science is not settled but it suggests strongly that the quote you provide is a gross oversimplification at best, and is more likely misleading and unhelpful. If you replace the word “plants” with “protein and fat,” you’d be doing much better. From an obesity point of view, I should say. Ethics and conservation issues complicate things immensely.

            • dabertini
              Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

              Absolutely not!! Most of your energy should come from carbohydrate. After all your brain runs on glucose and glucose only and we get a lot of other nutrients from carbohhdrate rich foods. Of course my statement was an oversimplification but it is a good place to start. How about eating more fruits (plants) and veg (plants)? How about eating more whole grains (plants)? How about eating more nuts (plants) and seeds (plants)? How about eating more legumes (plant)? The fact of the matter is that a typical plate should be 3/4 filled with plant based food typically a half veg and quarter fruit the other quarter should be protein rich.

              • Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:41 am | Permalink

                The battle is still ongoing in regards to “what comprises a healthy diet” and consumers have no one they can trust completely to set them traight. The FDA can’t be trusted for a variety of reasons. Nutritionists, and doctors (if they’ve studied anything about nutrition) are, for the most part still promoting high carb, low fat, limited red meat diets. When referring to carbs, they usually mean grains (breads, pastas, rice,corn etc.), potatoes, highly refined processed foods made from grains, and fruits. The focus is not on low carb vegetables like salad fixings, cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, etc. You can’t trust the information from the growers and food processing companies who frame their information to make their products seem healthy, whether they are or not. And, the food industry puts sugar, salt and fat in almost everything one finds in grocery stores that purports to be food.

              • Posted August 7, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

                I wonder on what research you are basing your claims. I used to agree with most of what you are saying. But then I read the research. It is not all that straightforward. I don’t know know how you can be so sure that you have the answer (Dunning-Kruger?). But it does seem very likely that the obesity epidemic is due to over consumption of carbohydrates. The Sam Harris podcast with Gary Taubes is a good introduction to this topic.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          The science may be clear, but the policy implications are less so. How should a government that picks up the tab for its citizens’ health care incentivize those citizens to “eat food, not too much, mainly plants”? Taxing fake food (such as diet soda) is one approach.

          • dabertini
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

            Education. Do we have to incentivize? Isn’t your health enough of an incentive? Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. I am interested in my health. Therefore i desperately try to make appropriate choices but even that is no guarantee. I have friends who think they will have a heart attack before they are 50 because of what they eat. Part of it is hedonism. We enjoy many foods that maybe we should not ingest. Who doesn’t love a good fois gras? But every day? Your diet has to be sustainable. And we should start at home.

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

              Nothing wrong with education. We should certainly teach our kids that stealing is wrong. But we still have jails for the ones who don’t absorb the lesson.

              • dabertini
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

                Are we expecting everyone to absorb the lesson? Absolutely not. You can’t force someone to eat properly. And education is just a small part of it. But one thing is for sure: help for the obese is out there. It is a matter of wanting to get the help.

              • rickflick
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

                But, then again, look at it this way. 100 or 200 years ago few were obese. As food became more processed and better advertised, it was created and targeted more expertly to take advantages of weaknesses in humanities evolved nature. Fats, sugars, and salt were added to many foods and they were promoted to children via mass media. So, due to an overwhelming change in the culture, in which
                human susceptibility was exploited society has decided to strike back with laws restricting the availability of sugar to help return the environment to a more natural state.

            • pali
              Posted August 6, 2017 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

              Your diet also needs to be affordable, especially for those on the lower ends of the income ladder. Right now, it’s far cheaper in much of the US to buy a bag of potato chips or M&Ms than it is a salad, or fruit bowl – in no small part because of corn subsidies keeping high fructose corn syrup super cheap. And so a lot of poor people end up living off of such foods, making them unhealthier and increasing their health care costs (that the rest of us largely pay for) in the long run.

              Maybe healthy food shouldn’t need to be incentivized, but unhealthy food already is, so healthy food may need to be to even the playing field.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

                Hear hear. As a poor student my goal was to be able to walk into a grocery store and buy whatever I wanted. I will never take it for granted that I can do that now. I know how privileged I am.

        • Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

          I think somewhere in all this eating or the discipline of eating should be exercise. In any form you like ( gardening, no lifts..)and without it to my mind it means little just to diet, exercise rounds it all off… or helps take off all the rounds 😎

          • dabertini
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

            Well diet has a lot to do with it since we all have to eat to get the nutrients we need. Exercise or better yet being active is also important for health and you could easily argue that energy balance is a minor reason we should exercise. There is a gazillion benefits to being active.

      • KD33
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        My bad on the diet slip (yes, I read it, thank you, but did get distracted before writing my comment; no excuse there, my apologies). But I stand by my objections to your main points. I am not a “Pecksniff” for thinking it might be justifiable to tax cases where particular sources (sugary soda’s, e.g.) have measurable bad effects. (Again, see the Harvard piece. There’s been a decade of similar study and commentary, and it can’t just be dismissed.) Your concern abut extending it to pasta, etc., seems to me to be the old slippery-slope trope.
        BTW, look deeper into the assumption that a tax that influences people to switch from sugary to diet will necessarily be a good thing. For reasons not entirely understood, it often does not improve the situation. I’ve read speculation that some people have a genetically-based proclivity to develop obesity when increasing carb intake, and somehow this carries over to other drinks, maybe their additives. This then brings up a secondary issue – would a tax unfairly target a population that can’t help its obesity response? What is their responsibility in that regard? What can society expect in return to compensate for increased health care costs that can amount to 5% of the GDP? (That includes tobacco, alcohol, opioids, etc.) Anyways, I might agree that this can be a nuanced issue for many reasons. But not with what seems to be your main thesis.

        Meant with respect,

    • John Aylwin
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:00 am | Permalink


      Plus, I’d like to put forward the argument that the sugary drinks are cheap because they have a long shelf life, leading to greater sales, which leads to even lower cost. Adding a tax to sodas brings them closer to the cost of healthier (and far, far nicer – I don’t know how folk can drink sodas) drinks such as a fresh, cloudy apple juice. That will raise the demand for better drinks and hopefully reduce their costs; a benefit to the poor. In an ideal world I’d like to see a consensus that tax on cheap crap could subsidise better quality stuff. I can hear the On Liberty argument coming, but I’m sure we all accept the argument that public money be spent on parks, some art, compulsory minimum education (yes, that’s for children who can’t make an informed decision for themselves, who may be subject to ignorant parents, but it’s the parents who may be buying them cheap crap sugary fizz to save money). There is such a thing as common interest, but which can only be managed by a government (and that is a job of government; perform the common interest that won’t get done without that delegation to a representative body).

      • darrelle
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        Apple juice, even no sugar added, doesn’t have significantly less sugar ounce for ounce compared to soda. Fruit juices tend to be very high in sugar. Naturally occuring, unprocessed sugar yes, but still sugar. In moderation they are fine, but then so is soda. If you were to drink apple juice at the rate that soda lovers drink soda I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be any better off.

        If a healthy diet is what you want then you should drink mostly water. Anything else should be in comparatively moderate amounts.

        • CJColucci
          Posted August 7, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

          Having learned not too long ago that I have Type II diabetes, I have been reading nutritional labels with care. The biggest shock was the sugar content of fruit juice, which has been the most painful single sacrifice I have had to make. But I’ve lost 30 pounds and feel much better.

    • Ralph
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      Plenty of slim, healthy people drink soda in moderation; and many people are obese for other reasons. If you believe in the principle that you are advocating, it is more logical to tax people who are actually obese. An IRS physical checkup once a year?

      If you think that’s preposterous, then can you explain why taxing soda is ethically any different?

      • Randy schenck
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        Let’s call it a fat tax every April 15th.

        • Alric
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          Insurance companies already used markers like bloodwork and BMI to charge you for insurance.

      • Posted August 7, 2017 at 7:12 am | Permalink

        Because taxing at source would likely help to prevent obesity more than some far-off in the future tax after people have become obese.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      As I recall there was a piece on Yes Minister where Humphrey Appleby essentially praised smoking on the grounds that smokers contribute taxes to the exchequer and then die before collecting their pensions (thus providing a double benefit). I believe that, at the time, the income from tobacco taxes was something like ten times the cost of tobacco related diseases. No idea what the current numbers are, but there are fewer smokers now.

      • Ralph
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        For smoking, the argument from higher health costs is unsound. On that basis we should be paying people to smoke, rather than taxing cigarettes. The bulk of healthcare costs come from treating people in their old age who are no longer taxpayers, and the fact that smokers tend to die young (i.e. with a longer proportionate taxpaying life) more than offsets the cost of treatment of the diseases that they die from.

        I have not seen any similar analysis for obesity in general or diabetes in particular.

        • Stonyground
          Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

          You don’t need to be unfit or overweight to be diabetic. Type one diabetes picks on anyone. The risk of developing type two diabetes is higher if you are overweight but you don’t have to be overweight to get it. I am a 58 year old type two diabetic, my BMI is within the normal range. I am also a triathlete and have just completed my first ironman.

    • Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      And yet I seem to remember that medical insurance companies took a lot of heat for their initial rejection of paying for cigarette cessation therapies.

      Their rationale:

      Letting people die early from lung cancer saved them (and therefore, somehow, society) more money than treating their addiction to cigarettes which would increase their life expectancy.

      In other words, cigarette smoking saves society money and therefore a sin tax is not justified.

  4. Szymon
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Diet Cherry 7 UP?! What is this monstrosity?
    On a serious note, this reminds me of the more logical tax Denmark was to impose a few years back which included all sorts of junk foods. Things went quiet about it the last few years though, I wonder if they did it right (as the Scandinavians usually do). There’s some googling to be done.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Sometimes we buy Diet Cokes at work and I found this interesting – nothing to do with taxes but with Coke in general.

    There is Coke Zero – it’s pretty much he same as Diet Coke but I’m told men didn’t want to drink Diet Coke because, I don’t know, I guess they thought it made them look girly. Anyway, we did a taste test and the Coke Zero is sweeter and closer to taste of Classic Coke. The can is more manly too – black. 🙂

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      I use to drink lots of straight coke but don’t any longer. But for many of us, diet pop of any kind is just terrible. I cannot drink any of the diet stuff. I’ll stick with water.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        I think you’d probably like Coke Zero as it’s closer to Coke Classic. I used to drink lots and lots of diet colas but it was rough on my teeth. I mostly drink water throughout the day now but I do give myself a Diet Coke treat once in a while. I also used it whenever I had migraines as I would find it would settle my stomach.

        • David Duncan
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          My dentist asked about my soft drink consumption. I said I drank diet drinks almost exclusively, which he approved of, but suggested I wash my mouth out with water anyway afterwards because the acid in any soft drink, even diet ones, is harmful to the teeth.

        • Carey Haug
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for the tip. I just got some Coke Zero and it is much tastier than diet coke. I am a convert.

        • darrelle
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

          My mother never kept soda in the house regularly when we were kids, but when we got sick soda (Coke or 7Up) was one of the medicines we got for just that reason.

        • Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

          Coca-Cola is replacing Coke Zero with a new drink – Jul. 26, 2017

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

            Actually that’s the one I tried. I think I missed the other and only just now found this one when a colleague told me it was the same-ish to Diet Coke. I had always bought Coke Zero had no caffeine so maybe that’s why they renamed it.

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        I’ve never tried a diet soda that I find acceptable – including coke zero. I eliminated soda from my diet many years ago, as it was omnipresent in meetings and therefore a major temptation best totally avoided, so the couple of “real” cokes that I now drink annually is probably not a big health risk.

        I hadn’t realized that the Cook County tax applied to diet drinks, I had naively thought that it was only on the sucrose-containing variety – silly me!

    • David Duncan
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      Coke Zero tastes much better than Diet Coke IMHO. I avoid regular Coke wherever possible and won’t touch DC if CZ is available.

  6. Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I have to disagree with Jerry on this one for several reasons. First, the evidence for a connection between soft drinks and obesity appears to be stronger than he suggests. Here’s one brief statement: “A meta-analysis of 88 studies evaluating the effects of soft drink consumption on health published in the American Journal of Public Health found “clear associations of soft drink intake with increased energy intake and body weight.””

    Second, cost is a deterrent and can produce desired consequences, as has been demonstrated by increased costs for cigarettes and gas (and other government decrees).

    Third, a comparison of caloric intake is more complicated than simply number of calories per unit, as in Jerry’s comparison to Starbuck’s drinks. The amount consumed matters as well and whether intake affects consumption of other caloric sources matters as well. Apparently, drinking pop is not associated with reduced intake of calories from other sources. Amount consumed impresses me as I live in Winnipeg, Canada, the Slurpee capital of the world (apparently) and see many overweight kids walking around with 44 oz drinks. Many are indigenous kids, a population with higher risk for obesity and diabetes.

    Finally, the logic of a tax is clear given the increased health costs for society (i.e., taxpayers) of obesity, lung cancer, and the like. Perhaps more important in a country like Canada with an enlightened universal healthcare system, although even in the USA certain segments of the population receive taxpayer-subsidized healthcare.

    Anyway, I hope Jerry continues to enjoy his lunches and I’ll continue to enjoy his postings.

    • Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      Let me reiterate what I said:

      there is virtually no evidence that diet sodas contribute to obesity.

      Of course sugary sodas with real sugar contribute to obesity and diabetes. I never denied that. Why is everyone claiming that I said sodas with real sugar don’t cause health problems?

      • Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        My bad for not noticing Jerry’s focus on diet drinks in that paragraph. In my feeble defense, much of the remainder does strike me as broader in scope, including the title. As for diet drinks and health, the issue appears to be complicated, in part because of an unfortunate phenomenon we’ve seen in other controversial areas (smoking, climate change) … much of the research is funded by industries that stand to gain from results failing to find a connection. Here’s an on-line piece describing some of the findings and complications, including a meta-analysis of government-funded research.

        Again, apologies for misrepresenting Jerry’s position.

        • grasshopper
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          I would dearly like a preview button on Jerry’s bl*g. A glance at a preview frequently allows me to pick up mistakes of spelling and grammar when posting at other blogs. And just that little bit of extra time before posting might be enough for the light globe in your head to let you know that your post needs a bit more work. One might argue that that can be done without a preview stage, but it is what I am used to doing, particularly if I have embedded HTML tags.
          The moving finger writes, and having writ it can be embarrassing lol

          • Posted August 7, 2017 at 6:15 am | Permalink

            I often log out first before posting, particularly if I’m using a lot of complicated HTML. Then when I click “Post Comment” (having added my log in details) I get a chance to review how it has worked when WordPress asks me to confirm my log in with my password. If I need to make changes, I can click the back arrow, and then I need to click on “Reply” again for my text to re-appear. Once edited, I can “Post Comment” again and log in with my password.

  7. BobTerrace
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I gave up all soda years ago and my beverages of choice are now water and unsweetened iced tea. When I was in the hospital, I had to drink diet ginger ale because they disallowed the (minuscule) caffeine and I didn’t want all those sugary juices.

    • phoffman56
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      To drive with more alertness via the caffeine and sugar, I’ll open a can of (real) coke coming back alone from a heavy ski workout or race. But these days often only half is drunk, even over a couple of hours.

      The following mix works well as a substitute for what USians call soda:
      about ⅓ is water carbonated at home (these days there are good systems for CO2);
      about ½ is (they claim pure) orange juice, with the pulp to hopefully improve glycemic index; and
      about 1/6 is grapefruit juice.
      Fortunately this suits my tastes very well. Working hard building a big fence and carriage shed this summer, but despite almost no roller skiing due to old age hip arthritis, I’ve lost some weight without trying to, and attribute it largely to the carbonation device which gets me drinking more water and less other stuff.

  8. Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    We have a wide ranging “public health product tax” (or as informally called: chips tax)in Hungary. One of the about 60 taxes here…
    It covers sugar, salt, and koffein. Only added sugar however, so products with natural sugar content, like honey, are exempt.
    It seems to be much smaller for soda than yours however. For “refreshing drinks” it is about 2 cents per liter. (Energy drinks got hit much heavier.)

    Nevertheless, it is only about collecting money. They could not care less about our health.

    • Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Just to clarify, even our overlords here in Hungary did not have the nerve to include died sodas into their public health tax. The bar for “refreshing drinks” is 8 g added sugar / 100 ml.

  9. Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Gosh, I hope you aren’t expecting rationality from our political institutions, especially in such a corrupt state as ours. I would look to see whether such a tax is merely a disguise for direly needed tax revenue, that the conversation is about calories and not taxes and expenditures. I would look to see whether local soda distributors/manufacturers has pissed off any of the powers that be. I would follow the money and not the calories.

  10. Historian
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Of course, everybody in Cook County knows that the purpose of the soda tax is to raise revenue. Any health benefits are purely a side benefit. What annoys me is that the Cook County Board feels compelled to lie as to why the tax was passed when everybody knows it is a lie. Taxes such as these that nickel-and-dime you seem to bother people a lot more than a simple rise in the income tax, which the Illinois legislature has just done. I think the Cook County board members who voted for this soda tax will be not be long for their positions.

    I think the revenue raising aspect of the tax may backfire. People who live near the collar counties will go there to buy their soda. While there they will also shop for other items they need, including non-food items. The Cook County tax is 1.75% (I’m not sure if it applies to food). The county will lose that amount on a least non-food items. The people who will really be hurt by this tax are inner city folk, who cannot easily leave Chicago to get to another county. All in all, it’s a stupid tax that further alienates the residents of Cook County from its government. If the revenue is really needed (which is always up to debate in both the city of Chicago and Cook County), certainly a different tax could have been raised that wouldn’t so much raise the public ire and create a public relations disaster.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Behavior is a very difficult thing to regulate with laws. I think we discovered this long ago but they keep trying. There was good reason to remove sales taxes from food in the grocery stores over the years and most states did that. Throwing a tax like this on just goes against this idea and is stupid. I know one state that did not remove the sales taxes on food and that was Alabama. It figures.

  11. Carey
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    IMO, much of the current obesity crisis is due to the consequences of the government recommendations to decrease fat and increase carbs. In addition to government nudges being questionable in principle, they have the potential to do great harm.

    • mikeyc
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      The government is not responsible for our obesity crisis. We are.

      • Carey Haug
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        I am not obese myself, but I wonder what the obese did to get that way? Did they eat too much, eat the wrong kinds of foods, fail to exercise? Why did it happen so suddenly and at this time?

        When I was a kid, there were no overweight kids in my class and just a few in the whole school. In my son’s class, half the kids are overweight. I can guess some of the reasons, but I don’t know for sure. If gluttony and sloth caused the obesity problem, why have more people become gluttonous and slothful recently?

        • barn owl
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

          Observational anecdata from my middle-class suburban US neighborhood indicates that kids are a lot less active than I remember as the standard. There are many families with school-age children in my neighborhood, yet I seldom see most of them playing outdoors in their yards or at the park. When I was a kid, we rode our bicycles or walked/ran all over the neighborhood, climbed trees, played basketball, rollerskated or skateboarded, etc. – not just on weekends or during summer break, but also every weekday after school. In the summer there was swim team practice, or just hanging out at the neighborhood pool.

          More sugar in the diet + less physical activity seems like a bad combination to me.

          • Carey Haug
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

            I live in a similar type of neighborhood, but most of the kids are swimming, playing basketball at the neighborhood court, biking etc. and they look healthy. It must be an outlier.

            My best guess is that people are heavier because of gigantic portion sizes and eating between meals. Cookies and muffins are about three times larger than they were in the seventies. At conferences, food wasn’t served at every break. Now enormous amounts of food are available 24/7!.

          • Posted September 21, 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

            Adults also move too little. To me, districts without sidewalks seem very abnormal.

      • Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

        I disagree. The food pyramid, advice to eat low fat diets, incentives to replace calories from fats with calories from carbs, all promoted by the government, played huge roles in the obesity epidemic.

        • Alric
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

          This wasn’t promoted by the government. The switch to carbs from fat was pushed by food companies because sugar is very, very cheap.

          • dabertini
            Posted August 7, 2017 at 8:22 am | Permalink

            You are both wrong. Obesity rates have grown because our energy consumption has grown. We eat too much.

      • Posted August 7, 2017 at 3:11 am | Permalink

        I disagree. In the U.S., the government may not be entirely responsible as they don’t force individuals to choose what they’ll eat or make them eat it.

        But, they are responsible for farm subsidies that help determine what farmers grow (or don’t) and that often produce massive surpluses. Too much milk and cheese production? Kill cows and turn them into meat products. Buy new cows. Continue as before. Excess production is warehoused by the government and used for school lunches and distribution to the poor. Universities and food manufacturers do research to find commercial applications or products to make from the surplus. That’s how we ended up with HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) in so many of our foods after federal farm subsidies for corn caused overproduction. Corn and soy bean surpluses are also used to feed cows, pigs and maybe chickens. I don’t know how much they may or may not harm pigs and/or chickens (that will eat almost anything), but cows are grass-eaters and corn and soy make them sick. So, they are treated with more antibiotics than are used on humans. Not good for beef eaters or the earth where antibiotics end up in our streams and the animals who live there. In addition, the excess use of antibiotics has diminished their efficacy in fighting human diseases.

        Monitoring by the government of conditions on farms that grow our food animals and crops and the companies that process them is grossly insufficient. They don’t monitor often enough and there have been cases of money changing hands between inspectors and inspectees.

        Our chickens are grown in such disgusting conditions that they have high levels of salmonella and are run through chlorinated baths before being cut up. In a recent U.S. – G.B trade deal, GB doesn’t want our chlorinated chickens. See:

        The farmers and manufacturers of processed foods have more influence on government agencies such as the FDA than we regular citizens have.

        There are a number of good sources of information about farming, food production and processing, and healthy diets: Read Gary Taubes and Michael Pollard. I’m away from my library or I would list more.

        • rickflick
          Posted August 7, 2017 at 6:52 am | Permalink

          Surpluses are also exported. Wheat surpluses vary year to year depending on weather and prices.

        • dabertini
          Posted August 7, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

          I would not trust gary taubes as far as i could throw him. Same goes for nina teicholz. They have been debunked by among others seth yoder at and scepdoc harriet hall. As for who controls the food industry, i think consumers have some control. I eschew processed food for fresh food and prepare my food at home.

    • dabertini
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      Governments are not telling us to replace fat with carbs.

      • Posted August 7, 2017 at 3:16 am | Permalink

        The U.S. government doesn’t know which end is up unless the farmers, food processors, their bought scientists and lobbyists tell them, and that information is more beneficial to the food producers than those who eat the food.

        • dabertini
          Posted August 7, 2017 at 6:15 am | Permalink

          There is plenty of reliable diet info from nutritional scientists who despite your claim are not bought. Check out the dash diet and the portfolio diet. The funny thing is that both diets are built on what scientists have been saying for years.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted August 7, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink


            Portfolio: What is soya milk like? Is it pleasant? How about soya nuts & soya yoghurt?

            DASH: Which resources do you recommend for [1] explaining why DASH [2] recipes?

            Thank you

            • dabertini
              Posted August 7, 2017 at 8:44 am | Permalink

              Soya milk is ok but i prefer skim milk and if you can’t stomach skim there is 1%, 2%. Marla heller is a dietitian who has written extensively about the dash diet. Dr jenkins is a nutritional scientist who pioneered work on glycemic index and came up with the portfolio diet to reduce hypercholesterolaemia. Studies have shown that it is as effective as statins in reducing bood cholesterol levels. I am not suggesting either diet is sustainable, but making even some changes in their direction would be beneficial.

  12. chrism
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    I make a large jug of iced tea each day, using strong black tea (King Cole), lemon juice and sucralose. Makes extremely nice grog if you add rum.
    I also keep an old-fashioned soda siphon and sparklet bulbs to make my own soda water. I should get hold of some quinine sulphate and start experimenting with home made tonic water.
    There is plainly something wrong when diet drinks are taxed and not the fructose-laden “made with” juices that are only remotely related to actual fruit juices.

  13. Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    The government has two reasons for taxing anything: A good reason and the real reason.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      One thing we know for sure. What they are collecting is not nearly as much as they spend.

      • mikeyc
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        That’s pretty much how most people live. Those with mortgages, car loans, student loans…. anyway.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

          Well, somewhat but the federal govt. here in the U.S. is the only one that can deficit spend. The others must pay up. Mortgage is generally good as it is the way we buy housing and also generate a tax break. The rest is just debt.

    • challedon
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      If it’s something that you enjoy, the government will tax it (or make it illegal).

      • Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        Especially if some busy-bodies think it is sinful.

        • Carey Haug
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

          That’s what sin taxes are for, to discourage and punish sinners. Puritanism is alive and well.

  14. mikeyc
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Laws that require us to where seatbelts in some (but not all!) vehicles or those that require motorcycle or bicycle riders to wear helmet also violate Mills dictum.

    I don’t buy the cost to society argument for any of these. If we want to make a real impact on the cost to society we would outlaw alcohol and cigarettes. Skiing and American Football (most sports, actuallyy) too.

    I have no problem with laws of these types for minors but not for adults.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      @mikeyc Prove to me that head injuries violate Mills dictum! The lifetime cost of TBI is extraordinarily high. A youth smacking his head on the curb or going through the wind screen can result in a requirement for 60 years of care – total $3,000,000 per HEAD. At the low end [say $80,000] – it is only then comparable to social costs of smoking [if there are any].

      In the UK a severely disabled person can draw £1,300 benefits per month + a similar amount to pay for the rent on their flat [say £600 to £1,200/month] + some vast amount for various medical services [case dependent]. State imposed seatbelts, head protection, airbags, regulated superior vehicle design have paid off handsomely for our society as a whole.

      If your argument is correct under the U.S. system of patchy or non-healthcare, then I thank my stars I was born well away from your crazy country.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. A state that pays for universal healthcare has a legitimate interest in regulating the bad habits of its citizens, since the consequences of those bad habits cause economic harm to everyone.

        • Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

          In that case, shouldn’t such societies absolutely prohibit alcohol and tobacco, or price them so high that they’re unaffordable? AFter all, those are two of the greatest killers of Americans.

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

            They should be priced to minimize harm. I think we have ample evidence that prohibition does not do that.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

            Or forbid driving since it causes serious injury.

        • Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

          Actually, some studies find smokers subsidize the rest of us. They die young and leave their social security benefits on the table. The same might be true of the obese.

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

            That’s certainly something that can be factored into the calculation. But it doesn’t contradict that idea that the state has a legitimate interest in performing such calculations.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

            Yeah but if you die young there are all those years where you also didn’t contribute to society and pay taxes. If you’re disabled by anythen hing that’s bad do you and society. It’s why I didn’t understand governments. It subsidizing health and pharmacare. I have a friend who can’t work because she can’t afford migraine medication. She could be out there paying more taxes but she can’t. Not to mention, it’s just cruel to let someone suffer like that.

            • rickflick
              Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

              But…what if…hear me out now…what if all Canadians got together and elected representatives to a governmental body to enact legislation and they could take our needs forward and enact laws to help everyone and we’d have compulsory taxes and a healthcare system that would pay for migraine meds for anyone who needed it, and…

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

                I think pharmacare has been suggested on and off. The Ontario government provides it to people up to some age in their 20s. Of course, they know this is e cheapest population to provide it to and seniors already receive discounts.

              • rickflick
                Posted August 7, 2017 at 6:43 am | Permalink

                Better than nothin’ I suppose.

            • Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

              Well, they don’t die that young. The life expectancy of smokers is about 10 years less than non-smokers, so they die around age 70 rather than 80. They have worked and paid their taxes. Then they leave about ten years of Social Security benefits (worth about $170K) on the table.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

                They rarely just die though. They go through a prolonged illness if not a series of illnesses before death and they can all be very expensive even if they only have the treatment for a few months.

                Then if they don’t die but are too disabled to work….

      • Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        “@mikeyc Prove to me that head injuries violate Mills dictum! ”

        Mills wrote;

        “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others . His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” (emphasis mine)

        The only person put at risk by not wearing a helmet or a seatbelt is the person not wearing it. No one else is put at risk by their failure to wear one.

        For the record – I always were a helmet. I am a former bicycle racer and know first hand the value of a helmet.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

          You wrote only the first of Mill’s two maxims. Below is taken from the Wiki on The Harm Principle:

          “firstly [insert what you wrote already here]

          Secondly, that for such actions as are prejudicial to the interests of others, the individual is accountable, and may be subjected either to social or to legal punishments, if society is of opinion that the one or the other is requisite for its protection.

          However, the second maxim also opens the question of broader definitions of harm, up to and including harm to the society. The concept of harm is not limited to harm to another individual but can be harm to individuals plurally, without specific definition of those individuals.”

          • DiscoveredJoys
            Posted August 7, 2017 at 3:58 am | Permalink

            The concept of harm is not limited to harm to another individual but can be harm to individuals plurally, without specific definition of those individuals.

            A good sensible point… my spidey senses are alerted though by the ‘sufficient warrant’ phrase. There is danger from ‘sufficient warrant creep’; you see it with nationalised health care, and local governments, even school boards. There is a terrible risk that some jobsworth will see some minor habit or activity as ‘harmful’ and therefore ‘sufficient warrant’ for prohibition.

            Don’t smoke grass, don’t grow grass in desert areas, don’t walk on the grass, and so on.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

          It’s not true that “The only person put at risk by not wearing a helmet or a seatbelt is the person not wearing it.” Other people in the same vehicle are at increased risk of injury from unbuckled bodies flying around in a collision.

          It’s also easy to imagine scenarios in which, say, heart surgeons place their patients at risk if they fail to buckle up on the way to the OR.

          Beyond that, it’s frequently the case that taxpayers foot the bill for injuries sustained by non-bucklers. That constitutes an economic harm to others, which Mill surely meant to include in the sort of harm that government can legitimately use coercion to prevent.

          • mikeyc
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

            “It’s frequently the case that taxpayers foot the bill for injuries sustained by non-bucklers”.

            How dos this differ from; “it’s frequently the case that taxpayers foot the bill for injuries sustained by Skiers”?

            What should we do about those skiers?

            It seems to me that the argument about the costs to society in terms of footing medical bills is a cover for disapproval of some else’s behavior. If it really was about medical costs there are all sorts of behaviors that ought to be prohibited. They aren’t because making it illegal to not buckle ir wear a helmet is low hanging fruit, in terms of personal freedoms. Who’s going to complain? It is neither logically coherent or consistent, but I accept that’s the way our society works.

            My opinion is that there is a cost to society to maintain our freedoms, big and small. Every single one of them. To me, the quote from Mill outlines the limits we ought to place on restricting personal freedom; for adults so long as we are risking no else’s safety, property or freedoms, we ought to be free to accept our own risk. After all as bad as it may be for taxpayers the person with the lifelong injury is the one really paying. To me those costs to society you refer to are the costs of a free society. I can live with that, afte all society has to care for a great many who’ve made many other kinds of bad decisions.

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted August 6, 2017 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

              Of course freedoms have costs, but some freedoms aren’t worth the cost of having them. Thousands of traffic fatalities a year seems a high price to pay for the trivial freedom of not buckling your seatbelt. As you said yourself, nobody cares that much about driving unbuckled.

              In your skiing example, the balance tilts the other way. People get a great deal of pleasure out of it, and hardly anybody dies from it, so banning it would do far more harm than good. I see nothing incoherent or inconsistent about that.

              • phoffman56
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

                Skiing always seems to mean alpine skiing. But there is also such a thing as nordic skiing. Being so healthful, and given the present conversation, maybe we should get a tax break for doing it! (Not serious, okay.)

                By the way, I have my own way of explaining a distinction between nordic and cross country.
                In the latter, the poles are used, usually unsuccessfully, to avoid falling on your ass.
                In the latter, for propulsion.

                And I cannot resist the Norwegians’ way to be unenthused (to put it mildly) about someone’s technique: “He skis like a Dane.”

              • rickflick
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

                I remember “Unsafe at Any Speed”, Ralph Nader. It stimulated debate and over a decade or two galvanized society into legal requirements. From seat belts, to air bags, the auto industry has fought these laws tooth and nail. Same with tobacco. Same with asbestos, same with Freon, same with fossil fuels. We’ve given up so many freedoms. It’s simply awful.

              • Gregory Kusnick
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

                The irony is that those Corvairs Nader thought were so unsafe became sought-after collector cars for pretty much the same reason he wanted them banned: their sporty handling characteristics when cornering.

              • rickflick
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

                People collect many things, including military weapons or expensive alcoholic beverages from France.

              • Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

                I once owned a beautiful Corvair. Because of Nader, I traded it in for a piece of junk–a Toyota Celica. How much I wish I would had kept the Corvair. Thanks for nothing, Ralph.

              • darrelle
                Posted August 7, 2017 at 8:01 am | Permalink


                Perhaps you got a lemon but, for most of its history the Toyota Celica was a quite good car, generally speaking. Several of its past iterations are iconic, legendary even.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

            Also in relatively minor collisions an unbuckled person is less likely to be able to maintain control of the steering wheel, allowing his car to smash into cars and pedestrians around him.

            • mikeyc
              Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

              Do you see the problem with making arguments like this?

              It is said that seatbelts save lives and there is zero controversy about this (because it’s true) even though we know that many people have been killed by their seatbelts, either directly from trauma caused by the belts or, worse, when they get trapped by the belt in a submerged or burning car. Even though we KNOW those things happen saying “seatbelts save lives” isn’t negated because sometimes they don’t.

              Just so, the unbuckled person “puts no one else at risk” isn’t substantially harmed by hypothetical cases where it might. Anyway, the point was about rights and how we restrict them.

              • rickflick
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

                According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 15,000 lives are saved each year in the United States because drivers and their passengers were wearing seat belts when they were in a road traffic crash.Feb 20, 2012

                The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says: Most crash fatalities result from the force of impact or from being thrown from the vehicle, not from being trapped. All studies show you are much more likely to survive a crash if you are buckled in. Ejected occupants are four times as likely to be killed as those who remain inside.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

                I have. I idea what you were trying to tell me.

  15. Laurance
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Holy s***!!! $12 to $14 for a pack of cigarettes in Chicago???

    Here in central PA it’s $7.95 for Marlboros. There are cheap not-as-good cigarettes for less.

    I dunno about high prices keeping people from smoking. Yes, I’ve heard of people who declared, “What?? How much now?? Fifty cents for a pack of smokes?? To hell with that, I’m quitting!!!” And they do quit.

    But my Sweetie wants his Marlboros, and he can’t afford them. He’s in our local nursing home. I have to sign him out, take him off the nursing home property so that he can smoke. He does have some money, but he’s burning it up and it will be gone. There will be a day when all he has is $45 a month for spending money. His SSI, his Medicaid and now some Medicare goes to keeping him in the nursing home where one of his problems is COPD.

    So I just don’t know about high prices keeping people virtuous, including poor people who can’t afford these things.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      @Laurence Convert your Sweetie to rolling machine + rolling tobacco + papers + filters. It runs at 10% the cost of manufactured ciggies & the tobacco is free of some nasty additives.

      A good machine is very easy to use.

      • Laurance
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Michael…I’m aware of those rolling machines. There was a time years ago when Ol’ Sweetie used a rolling machine. I don’t know, though,if it would be practical now. He’s old and awkward and in the nursing home, and I don’t know how well he could use the roller.

        But I could learn to do it for him. Thank you for the reminder. It might come to that once he gets only $45 spending money a month. Yes, that might be what happens when his money is limited. I’d roll the cigarettes. He can get nicotine patches free at the nursing home, but so far he’s stubbornly refused and declared that he wants to smoke.

        I am not willing to pay for his smokes myself once his money is short. Call me selfish, but I have needs, too, and this much loved but unthinking and “entitled” old guy has to come to understand that he’s in the nursing home for a reason, and I can’t fix the world for him and provide him with anything he wants…

    • darrelle
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      Some smokers find it easy to quite, others just can’t manage to do it except perhaps with extreme measures. So yes, high prices won’t keep some people who are already addicted from continuing to smoke. But it will prevent some. And it may also prevent people from ever becoming addicted in the first place.

      • Posted September 21, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        It works this way where I live. And even more important than the high prices is the ban on smoking in cafes and restaurants. Before that ban, smokers were allowed to (literally) poison other people.

  16. Stonyground
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    I found this post a little confusing in that you seemed to be against nanny state taxing of soda while at the same time advocating nanny state taxing of other things. One of the few sensible things said by C. S. Lewis was:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    • Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Excellent quote.

      One of the many reasons we should resist government interference in the health care market is that it will be used as an excuse for other authoritarian intrusions into our lives. The government is restricting supply and using that as an excuse to intrude into the market. It’s a coercive mess from top to bottom.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Lewis is not exactly a shining moral example.

      But more to the point, we live in democracies. You can elect other government, if you feel that they are “busybodies” instead of simply attempting to increase health across the board.

    • dallos
      Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:19 am | Permalink

      In tyrannies the robber barons are the omnipotent moral busybodies.

  17. Josh
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    How about switching to water?
    Pretty much all I have drunk for years.
    See article on link to diet soda and strokes and dementia.

  18. Barry Lyons
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I don’t drink sodas of any kind, but I do like carbonated beverages. While it’s true that unsweetened flavored seltzer water can be had (my preference over any soda, diet or otherwise), someone should market, say, a raspberry-flavored seltzer water sweetened with stevia (a zero-calorie and natural sweetener). THAT’s something I would buy!

    • Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      My understanding is that “soda” is simply a term for carbonated beverages.

      • Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Beer and champagne are carbonated, but they’re not soda.

    • Greg Geisler
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Gave up sodas 35 years ago and never missed them. Here’s some healthier alternatives that we consume:

      Kefir water. We make our own but you can buy a few bottled varieties in stores now. It’s a probiotic, lightly carbonated and lightly sweetened (the microbes consume most of the sugar used in the fermentation process). It’s like a healthy soda with more beneficial gut bacteria than yogurt.

      Cold brew tea. Celestial Seasonings makes cold brew herbal tea bags that you can drop into a glass or pitcher of water and brew in 10 minutes.

      You mentioned the Stevia— Stur makes a stevia water flavorer that is the healthiest of the various flavorers on the market. It’s quite good and when used in conjunction with a carbonated water makes for a delicious and healthy soda.

      Speaking of sugar, look on youtube for videos of Gary Taubes. He was on Sam Harris’ podcast not too long ago and also on Michael Shermer’s salon talks. Or read his book The Cas Against Sugar. Sugar is even worse than you thought it was.

  19. Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    There’s a soda tax in a city nearby me that’s even higher(Philadelphia). The politicians who pass these taxes don’t care if we all live or die. The purpose of the tax is to collect more money to spend, and keep them in power.

  20. Simon Hayward
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    On the regulation of carbs issue, you can make a strong case that regulating sucrose/fructose is more useful than regulating starch. The breakdown products of starch – glucose – are available to all cells while the sucrose splits to glucose and fructose, the transporter for which, glut5, is essentially liver specific. So it almost inevitably ends up as fat. So I’d take a soda tax over a bread and pasta tax!

    None of this, of course, has any bearing on diet soda, or on the appropriateness of this approach by our county board raising cash, but that’s been discussed above.

  21. Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    My made from scratch soda is not sugar free but has minimal sugar: I add a small amount of bottled fruit syrup (usually made in Poland or eastern Europe), preferably black currant (cassis), to a glass of seltzer and ice, plus a large squeeze of lime. You can add as little or as much syrup as you like. This is much cheaper than bottled soda in any case, and also tastier. Of course you can also make lime soda by squeezing fresh limes into seltzer and adding a little sugar or an
    artificial sweetener. In fall and winter fresh apple cider is the best of course…and you can mix it with seltzer too if you want. I never drink Coke or bottled soda but in serious illness ginger ale is OK.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      @Lorna Salzman

      Good idea.

      Try ginger beer – too good to drink only when ill!

  22. Paulo Augusto Franke
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    It is surreally unreal to see a hyper intelligent celebrity, highly successful and respected in his field of biology, behave with such stupid ignorance when it comes to eating.

    Bread, pasta, sweets, cakes, soda (soda!!!), cookies, what else did I miss ?

    How can an infinitely smart brain like JC’s ignore that this is fucking crap, humans never ate that shit during our evolution on Earth ?

    So yes, soda taxes are absolutely necessary, to defend the young against their stupid parents and irresponsible schools.

    As for brilliant biology scientists, they most probably have enough money to continue indulging in their pathetic and sickening eating ways.

    No matter how high soda gets taxed.

    • Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Humans also didn’t receive vaccines during our historical evolution. I presume you are anti-vax?

      Those short-lived savages were just so amazingly noble, weren’t they?

      (PS – we are still evolving. Do you suppose evolution can be turned off?)

    • Ralph
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      There are plenty of sound reasons to reduce our excessive carbohydrate intake. The fact that our evolutionary ancestors did not eat so many carbs is not one of them, unless your ambition is to achieve the 30-year life expectancy of the noble savage, likely dying from something as mundane as an infected tooth. There are plenty of things in our lives that are different from those of our ancestors. Some are worse, many are better – and each should be assessed on its merits.

    • dabertini
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      WOW!! You are claiming PCC(E) is ignorant? You need to read DA ROOLZ.

      • barn owl
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        Hmmm … is Paolo a crabby, glucose-deprived paleo diet zealot, or just a Cheetoh-eating, Dr. Pepper-swilling troll?

        Can’t decide. Oh well, he’s gone now anyway.

    • Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      While I agree with you about the junk food I disagree with the need for a tax, what we need it corporate money not driving studies about our food and teaching people good eating habits, like less sugar and more fat with moderate protein.

      The tax just abuses the people who honestly don’t know that what they are eating isn’t good for them, we have all been brainwashed into believing that fat is bad and sugar is ok, so now the tide is turning on carbs but the need for fat isn’t being addressed, so we consume the only macro left which is protein and since that is converted to glucose for metabolization it is basically a high carb diet.

      Taxing isn’t the answer, education and independent research is the way to go.

      • Greg Geisler
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        Good points about education. One thing that hasn’t been addressed in this thread is the consequences of supporting these soda companies who excel at getting people hooked at an early age. I’ve been in high schools here in Texas where Coke machines are lined up and they are not dispensing only diet drinks. I find it a bit unethical for schools to host these machines but I’m sure they receive some handsome subsidies for doing so.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      @Paulo Augusto Franke

      LOL. I recommend some breathing exercises – chill you out.

    • Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      Bye, Paulo. Learn some damn manners.

    • Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Paulo, don’t you know that humans never left comments on websites “during our evolution on Earth?”

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      LOL like no one is allowed to enjoy some pop or piece of cake ever. Humans were mostly wandering around starving or dying off from some bacterial infection. I think I will enjoy my cake and living past the ripe old age of 20.

  23. Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    In fact, I use diet soda to help me avoid over-indulging in unhealthy food, or unhealthy amounts of food. The gas helps me to feel more full.

    • grasshopper
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      I bloat my stomach with oatmeal/porridge for same reason you bloat with soda – it fills the gaps assuages hunger for a time, and stops me thinking about other foods. Also, it is cheap and has other health benefits, but only if you cook it inside a pyramid with a crystal hanging from the apex.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        Mine is naturally bloated via IBS.

        • grasshopper
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

          My rooster attacks me at times. I label his behaviour IFS – “Irritable Fowl Syndrome.”
          I suffered IBS as well for a time. The symptoms disappeared immediately after undergoing an exploratory colonoscopy. I like to think that the rigorous bowel prep before the procedure somehow ameliorated the “irritation” part of the syndrome. Luckily, too, some pre-cancerous polyps were detetected and cauterized.
          I hope you get some relief in the future.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

            I love roosters and chickens!

            I’ve had boats of IBS in my youth most likely from stress. Then it went away for a long time but then, a few years ago, I went through years of layoffs at work and at one point got a stomach flu. That flu seemed to trigger the IBS and now I’m back on the IBS train again. I’ve been this way for about 4 years so I’m hoping it improves. Went through bad work stress a few months back again and ended up so sick with stomach issues that I could barely eat. Of course I lost absolutely no weight from this!

            Things have been a bit better stomach wise so I’m hoping it goes away. Ugh and the prep for the colonoscopy. I had IBS when I had to do that and ended up fainting from the prep. Good grief! I’m glad it will be a few years before I will have to do that again!

            • rickflick
              Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

              ” a few years before I will have to do that again!”

              In the US it used to be every 10 years, but then they changed it to, whatever it is, 15 years? It’s based on research that showed that 10 years didn’t have any appreciable impact on reducing cancer. So, there’s that. Mileage may differ(Canada).

              • grasshopper
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

                That is a sensible approach if the patient has never had cancer. After 15 years I guess I have passed from remission to “cure”, but when my GP is puzzled by what ails me at the time, I am sent for probes/tests/scans to assess the health of my wallet and to rule out the return of the big C.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

                I think it’s every 5 years after 50 in Ontario. With mammograms they changed screening to be after 50. Of course I got cancer at 44 but I doubt a mammogram would’ve found anything & they subject you to radiation in the process.

            • Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

              My poor daughter needed an endoscopy when she was 5. I felt so bad forcing her to take all that laxative.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

                Oh that would have been awful! And so dangerous with being so small that you’d worry about sugar level drops and dehydration. I hope they come up with a less invasive approach some day soon!

      • Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        Another thing the diet soda does for me in the way of not overeating is satisfying that whole oral fixation thing that I think many people often mistake for hunger.

      • dabertini
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        I hate feeling bloated! How is that a good thing? And oatmeal/porridge causes you to bloat. That is a new one for me. Maybe it is preparing it in that pyramid thing with the crystal hanging from the apex that somehow causes you to bloat. Where can i get one?

        • Posted August 7, 2017 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

          “Bloated” is not a precise term. Obviously what grasshopper and I are talking about is a method of achieving comfortable fullness without consuming too many calories.

          • dabertini
            Posted August 8, 2017 at 8:49 am | Permalink

            I get it. For many by the time they feel full they have probably eaten too much. In theory we are supposed to stop eating before we are full. In practice not easy to achieve.

            • Posted September 21, 2017 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

              I think we should be suspicious to all theories that tell us that we should spend our lives feeling unwell.

  24. Randy schenck
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    So in the end, it is all about business. Maybe we should say revenue. How can we continue to subsidize the tobacco farmers, the sugar farmers or the corn farmers if we don’t tax something. It all makes perfect sense in the end.

  25. Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Methinks thou dost protest too much.
    Mexico’s tax on sugar-sweetened beverages appears to have done some good ( saving 18,900 is this article can be believed.
    But I do agree that the evidence of harm from diet beverages of any kind is very weak.
    And we do support taxes on cigarettes and alcohol so the concept of regulating the population’s consumption of harmful stuff via taxation is well established.

  26. Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Methinks thou dost protest too much.
    Mexico’s tax on sugar-sweetened beverages appears to have done some good ( saving 18,900 is this article can be believed.
    But I do agree that the evidence of harm from diet beverages of any kind is very weak.
    And we do support taxes on cigarettes and alcohol so the concept of regulating the population’s consumption of harmful stuff via taxation is well established.

  27. David Duncan
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    “But, as all of us citizens of Cook County realize, this is not really why the tax is being enacted. Our county is in a severe financial crisis, as is much of Illinois, and this tax is a way to get lots of dough…”

    Is Cook County a Democratic stronghold? They need to get a hold on their spending so there’s no need to lie about these taxes.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know if Cook County has an income tax, similar to the state? If they do they should put the tax there. If not, then put it in the property tax. But stay out of this nanny stuff.

      • Historian
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

        Cook County doesn’t have an income tax. But, please, don’t give the Board any ideas.

        Cook County has one of the highest property taxes in the country, I believe. If a $100 were added to the average property tax bill, I doubt many people would notice or get excited. If your property tax is currently $5,000 a year, a raise to $5,100 would hardly be worth mentioning.

        • Randy schenck
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

          May be they are hitting the residential property tax too much to the benefit of the commercial property…but that is another story.

  28. DrBrydon
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Man, I’m late to the party…. I’ve always thought that the problem with Mill is that he never rigorously defined ‘harm.’ It is, unfortunately, a term with a fair amount of elasticity. We live in a society where increasingly the private actions of others is viewed as harmful. Liberty diminishes accordingly.

  29. Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    The problem with artificial sweeteners isn’t that they make you want more sugar, although I have read about this theory, the true problem is that like fructose they are a leading cause of NAFLD (Non Alcoholic Liver Disease), which I learned after my experience with NAFLD, giving up artificial sweeteners and using only pure stevia (not the mixes/blends) has removed all trace of NAFLD that I had, and others have had the same experience.

    Personally I’d rather take the sugar hit to my BGL than use any chemical sweeteners, they are just toxic poison.

    And in case anyone thinks that stevia is an artificial sweetener it’s not, I grow it in my backyard and use the leaves in my iced tea, it’s crazy sweet and all natural.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      I like agave nectar when I need some sweetner, instead of sugar. Tastes great.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        @darrelle I’ve not heard of agave so I looked it up. Besides learning it’s the base for tequila [yum] I came across a lot of remarks like the below: “…agave has a higher fructose content than any other common sweetener, more even than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Because of its reputation as a ‘natural’ sweetener, it is now widely used in products claiming to be good for health – from teas to nutrition bars and energy drinks.”

        I have no idea at all about good & bad sugars, good & bad fats, alcohol is bad for you, some wine is good for you and so on. I find the advice changes direction like the wind so now I just walk a lot, eat broadly across food groups, leave the table a little hungry & rein in the old booze.

        I have moderated my coffee to one a day in the morning – a real, home made extravaganza & it is a delicious experience because it’s constrained. I take no sugars that aren’t already in food – stopped in my teens for no reason & I didn’t notice the loss at all.

        I might have one chocolate bar a year & maybe three sweet choc-based cakes & they’re better for being constrained too.

        • darrelle
          Posted August 7, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

          Uh oh. No bueno on the agave nectar? I’ve never investigated it myself as a healthy alternative to regular sugar. I’ve been told it is “low glycemic” but I’ve never verified that. It tastes great though and it is less sweet than most sweeteners which I also like. More generally speaking I am of the opinion that artificial substitutes for sugar and fat are all nasty. I’d much rather stick to the real things and just have them in moderation. Have you ever had no-fat mayonnaise? WTF is it? It can’t be good for you and it tastes horrid.

          Speaking of tequila and agave nectar, for the best margarita 2 parts fine 100% blue agave anejo, 1 part agave nectar, 1 part fresh squeezed lime juice, mix in a cocktail shaker with crushed ice.

          I’ve never had much of a sugar habit. Little to no soda, candy or processed junk food. My one downfall is when my wife bakes her chocolate chip cookies. She has perfected a recipe over a number of years and they are sublime. Oh, and potato chips. I can do some damage to a bag of kettle cooked potato chips (crisps).

          Alcohol is bad for you?! I just heard a blurb on the radio today about the mystery of the Queen’s longevity being solved. She has maintained a regular habit of 4 cocktails a day. That’s . . . , impressive.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted August 7, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

            I’ve tried low fat & no fat foodstuffs when there’s no escape – not good i.e. visiting the home of an often unwell, brown rice & sandals, food & lifestyle judgemental, humourless relative – such visits make me feel the way I did during long church sermons!

            Tequila: will order the bits I haven’t got & give it a go – thanks!

            Alcohol: I was reporting the conflicting info I’ve seen. It’s my practise to have a glass, or two, of wine daily or perhaps a bottled beer/stout.

            • Posted September 21, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

              “…such visits make me feel the way I did during long church sermons…”

              I have also mentioned the similarity between “Do not do what you like because God hates it & you’ll burn in Hell” and “Do not do what you like because it is bad for your health”.

  30. Chris Swart
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I don’t drink much diet soda but when I do I prefer diet ginger ales, squirt, orange crush and root beer. In the summer, I like to have root beer floats and a squirt mixed with fresh grapefruit juice.

    When I buy it, I don’t even think about the taxes, and would not even if new taxes were added here in Madison for ideological reasons. I have enough on my mind with Scott Walker and Donald Trump in charge.

  31. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I do not understand the uproar or the claim it is paternalistic. The web rule should apply, governments (because it is not only in US) attempt this because of concern. And not the “get my little people votes” concern but because bureaucracies (at least here in Sweden) has above average educated people and it should work as intended. (Getting more government income is of course not a trivial concern either. But that goes towards the taxation instrument in the first place.)

    If we cannot tax soda, how can we enforce safety belts in cars? Is there a reason that I am not considering?

    The slippery slope/cannot tax anything problematic if we do not tax all these factors at once seems overboard to. As far as I understand soda taxes are attempted to inform and be a start.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      I see in the comments that Jerry is solely concerned with diet sodas, which is a government mistake. It was the general sentiments that I did not understand. If they do not apply to sugar sodas [why?], proceed without notice.

    • Dick Veldkamp
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      At first I thought the cases of soda tax and enforcing seat belt wearing where not the same, but in fact they are! In both cases it is about the government promoting individual health and avoiding societal costs: saving lives (or quality adjusted life years) and avoiding medical costs.

      • Historian
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        Your argument has merit if it can be demonstrated that the purpose of the soda tax is to actually promote health. Cook County, Illinois claims to be desperately short of cash. The start date of this tax was pushed back a month while a lawsuit against the tax was ultimately dismissed. Due to this month delay, Cook County was threatening to lay off county workers. I think it is abundantly clear to anybody knowledgeable about this tax is that it was imposed to raise revenue. The supposed health reasons were a mere pretext.

        • Dick Veldkamp
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

          Historian –

          My argument is general. I have no strong opinion on this particular tax on diet soda (which on the face of it seems rather strange).

      • Randy schenck
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        I believe you are off the mark on the seat belt comparison. Putting seat belts and other safety devices in cars was mandated by the federal government. No one raised a tax. The cost goes to the consumer who buys the car. How that applies to this soda tax is beyond me.

        • Dick Veldkamp
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

          The thing is that in both cases the government interferes with your individual freedom to choose, to promote the health of society as a whole, either by banning something outright or by taxation.

          So you cannot very well be FOR seat belts, but AGAINST a sugar tax (at least it is a little inconsistent).

          • Randy schenck
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

            That is just plain wrong. What the heck did they ban? As I explained above the seat belt was a govt. safety law. And by the way, saves millions of lives. However, if you are dumb enough to not wear the belt, good luck. And you do not have to drink the soda either but that is a local tax. They can say it is for your health but really it is just to raise taxes. I would guess you must be really jumping up and down about those damn air bags.

            • Dick Veldkamp
              Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

              Driving without seat belts is banned, sodas are taxed. Two ways of influencing behaviour.

              • Randy schenck
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

                Your definition of banned needs a little work. The seat belt is in your car and you are required to wear it, otherwise you could be ticketed and you will likely hear this buzzing while you drive. Now, if your drink while you drive, which is also illegal and you get caught, you could be banned from driving for a time. The influencing of behavior is simply following the law. They are not making you drink the pop or buy the pop – it is your choice.

        • rickflick
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

          Google says, “According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 15,000 lives are saved each year in the United States because drivers and their passengers were wearing seat belts…”

          “WHO estimates that by increasing tobacco taxes by 50%, all countries would reduce the number of smokers by 49 million within the next 3 years and ultimately save 11 million lives.”

          “(Reuters Health) – Mexico’s soda tax is on course to prevent diabetes, heart attacks and strokes in more than 200,000 adults and to save nearly $1 billion in healthcare costs over a decade, a new study suggests.”

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

          The ‘soda tax’ is the government imposing a price on consumers.

          The fitting of seat belts – or air bags – is the government imposing a price on consumers.

          (I always wear seat belts, but I find air bags far more offensive – I’m forced to pay to have the bloody things fitted, they waste space in the dash that used to be devoted to a handy ‘glove box’, they result in stupid complications any time I work on the car, and I can’t turn them off and I’m not allowed to take them out and throw them away. Just another unnecessary thing to go wrong. I don’t trust them to work when required and if they malfunction I’m going to get smashed in the face by an explosive charge – what will that do to my glasses? Hammer them into my eyes? I’m in favour of most safety devices but air bags – which, ironically, were introduced partly because people would not wear seat belts, so the involuntary compulsory air bag that gives the occupant NO choice whether to employ them was introduced instead – I just don’t trust for a moment.)

          But in either case, the Government is imposing a cost on consumers ‘for their own good’. I see no difference in principle.


          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

            And I should add, PCC may think seat belt laws are no great cost – as indeed they aren’t, seat belts, even inertia-reel ones, are pretty simple gadgets – but the cost of fitting air bags with the associated complications in triggering them and fitting them into the structure of the car, not to mention the space they take up, must be very substantial.


          • rickflick
            Posted August 7, 2017 at 6:39 am | Permalink

            “Safety belts and air bags have made our roads substantially safer over the years. NHTSA estimates that safety belts have saved 147,246 lives in the period 1975-2001, and air bags saved 8,369 lives between 1987 and 2001.”

            Modeling for usage predictions:

            “gives the following numbers for the 2002 data year:
            – 260 additional lives would have been saved if (front seat daytime) belt use had been
            one point higher (76%);
            – 4,116 if use had been 90 percent; and
            – 7,127 if use had been 100 percent.”


          • Posted September 21, 2017 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

            To me, an important difference is that government receives the money from the soda tax but not those from the seat belts.
            So the former case is an obvious conflict of interests.

  32. Dick Veldkamp
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    One thing that has not been mentioned is that it is an illusion that every consumer (or most of them) makes an informed, rational choice what to do.

    As it is, there is no level playing field at all, the odds are heavily skewed towards companies promoting eating (drinking, smoking) more of the stuff they sell. If the government does not do anything, this is not the neutral thing to do, it is acquiescing in the bombardment of advertising to consume more. So I think it is generally a good thing if “bad” behaviour is taxed, especially since taxes have been shown to work (while simply outlawing stuff generalky does not). Also, everyone IS STILL FREE to make the unhealthy choice.

    Also, it seems to me that in the case of taxes related to smoking and sugar/fat/carbs the moral dilemma “Should we give expensive medical treatment to somebody with an unhealthy lifestyle?” is neatly avoided, since their health care was already paid for!

  33. boggy
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Apart from the obesity issue, consider the pH of sodas and their effect on teeth:
    Regular Coke pH 2.52
    Diet Coke pH 3.28
    Coke Zero pH 3.18
    The critical pH for dissolving dentine (dentin US) is 6.5 and enamel 5.5.
    Best stick to tea, which contains fluoride or beer which has nutritional benefits.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      Yeah I had to drink a lot for it to bother my teeth. And when I say a lot I say about 2 litres a day. I drank it in the morning too. Also, I hadn’t seen a dentist since I was a child and I was in my 30s then so that couldn’t have helped.

    • dabertini
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

      What are the nutritional benefits of drinking beer?

      • boggy
        Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:16 am | Permalink

        Beer contains no fat or cholesterol and is low in carbs; it also contains calcium, potassium and phosphorus and has a positive effect on osteoporosis cancer and probably diabetes and dementia.

      • darrelle
        Posted August 7, 2017 at 8:44 am | Permalink

        Given your passion for diets high in plant based foods I’d have thought you’d be aware that beer (generally speaking) is fairly nutritious. As with most things moderation is a key word. A 12 pack a day is not likely to be good for you, but a bottle a day is.

        Even just considering alcohol, there is pretty good evidence from serious scientific studies that moderate amounts of alcohol have a positive health benefit.

        • dabertini
          Posted August 7, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

          Yes but i wouldn’t classify beer as a plant. I’m pretty sure you can get any nutrient found in beer in more nutrient dense foods. You are right about the benefits of consuming a couple of glasses of wine a day. The problem is overconsumption of alcohol which is dubious to your health unless you are johnny fever.

  34. Posted August 6, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I wrote a letter to the LA Times in 2009 when such a proposal was made for California. Here it is:

    The writers claim that needed revenues would be raised by increased taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages, and that the taxes would discourage consumption of these beverages, leading to enormous health benefits. But significant revenues would be raised only if the tax had at best a modest effect on consumption. Such a modest effect on consumption would probably have a negligible public health impact.

    According to the article, “A regular 20-ounce soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar and 250 calories.” If consumers were to shift to naturally sugary beverages that would not be subject to the proposed tax hike — such as fruit juices — they would actually increase their calorie consumption per ounce.

    We should carefully consider the potential unintended negative consequences of the doctors’ soda-tax solution.

    William M. London

    Los Angeles

    The writer is a professor of health science at Cal State Los Angeles.

    • Carey
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      That’s a real Catch 22.

      • Dick Veldkamp
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        Not really. 😉

        The revenue argument is bogus as far as I am concerned: we should be concerned with public health. If taxation causes smoking to go down to 0% and hence no tax revenue: great! It just might mean we have to raise income tax (or whatever) to finance schools and hospitals.

  35. yazikus
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Burning question:

    Will the tax apply to LaCroix??

  36. phil brown
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Governments need to raise money, so some things have to be taxed. If certain taxes have the beneficial side-effect of improving public health then that ameliorates that particular tax-burden to an extent. For that reason, taxes on unhealthy things are less of an imposition on the populace than taxes on healthy or neutral things.

    Governments have a legitimate interest in the health and safety of their citizens. Sick people are less productive and more costly in terms of health and social care.

    If you only drink pop in moderate quantities, then the tax is not going to be any great burden. If you drink pop in unhealthily large quantities, such that the tax does become a significant burden, it would be rational to welcome it as a motivating factor to decrease your level of consumption. Willpower alone is all too often too weak to overcome bad habits.

  37. Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Oh, my. Does this mean that the obamacare “tax,” designed to compel purchase of health insurance, for our own good, violates Mill’s stricture? It is a bit ironic to see a progressive complain about progressive policies that are designed to affect public behavior, don’t you think?

    • rickflick
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      “…ironic to see a progressive complain about progressive policies that are designed to affect public behavior…”

      No, Obamacare is a baby step toward a normalization of health care in the US. Given the conservative state of US politics, it’s all that could be achieved, for now. The intention of Obama, Clinton, and I’m sure most democrats and obviously Sanders is a single payer(e.g. mostly government run) system something like Canada, UK, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, and many other first world nations.
      Thus, it is not really ironic. It’s the frustration of gradualism in a large freewheeling democracy.

    • fizziks
      Posted August 7, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Stupid comment, dogbertsthoughts. Sorry for saying that directly, but I have to call things out honestly.

      The Obamacare tax penalty for not having health insurance is not for one’s own good. It is, like any other tax, for society’s good. There is no way a private insurance system could work if, as Obamacare mandates, insurers cannot penalize sick individuals, without requiring healthy individuals to buy into the system. Plus it helps ensure that society isn’t burdened with the cost of uninsured people showing up in the emergency room.

      Think of it as the same as the mandate to carry liability insurance when driving. Yes, it might help you one day if you hit someone and get sued, but it isn’t for your own good – it is for everyone else.

  38. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Do they tax alcohol? Do they tax gas (petrol?).

    What pisses me off is the exorbitant (and environmentally criminal) prices people pay for bottled water, when they can get the exact same stuff for free** from a tap. I say ‘criminal’ because of the waste of petrochemicals in making the bottles and transporting them, sometimes halfway round the world (which ‘sodas’ are not, they are usually bottled locally) and transporting the empties back to landfill – absolutely unnecessary in any place with a town water supply (which is most of the places where this stuff is sold).

    I just buy a bottle of Pepsi Max (the low-sugar version) – which is cheaper than Coke OR bottled water – and refill it as needed from the tap.

    ** The price of mains tap water is so cheap, ‘free’ is a reasonable first approximation one-drink quantities.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      Treat yourself to a nice insulated water bottle. I put ice in mine and it keeps it icy all day. I don’t know how good those plastics they sell fizzy drinks in are over time and I just don’t trust them.

    • Posted August 7, 2017 at 12:54 am | Permalink

      Read about Nestle and the bottled water business.

      We are fortunate in having water on tap, which may be safe to drink (or not: remember Flint)
      but may taste terrible. The water district for Contra Costa county, CA is called East Bay Municipal Utility District, better known as East Bay MUD, and the water doesn’t taste good. The water in Vancouver, WA isn’t great tasting either. However, I guess it’s much better than drinking contaminated water or having to trek miles away to carry water home in a bucket or jug.

  39. Posted August 7, 2017 at 3:34 am | Permalink

    Tuna is pretty bad – not for you but for tuna. Heavily over-fished, plus ‘by catch’ of rare or endangered species…

    • Posted August 7, 2017 at 3:34 am | Permalink

      oops – apologies for the picture embedding!

  40. Vaal
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Hear, Hear, Jerry!

    I’m an unbowed diet coke drinker (about 1 a day). I also enjoy the occasional regular soda (cannot resist a boylan soda if they are around).

    It’s amazing how judgemental people are about drinking diet coke. I’ve literally had people walk by me and say “You’re poisoning yourself with that, you know!”

    I’ve looked at the studies/meta studies and there just isn’t any firm evidence for lots of the scare stories. (Not to mention, though anecdotal, at 53 I’m at my healthiest weight and have no signs of any chronic health issue). But, aside from perhaps the diet coke a day, I drink any other soda in moderation. When I go to the USA and see the massive amounts of soda consumed there, I can see how people get obese, but the sin tax idea still strikes me as problematic in the ways you outline.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      I had someone tell me how I was going to be fat and that he carbonated his water which was much better. The guy was a real asshole though. He came from our American office and he spent all his time, when he came to Canada, talking about how we said things differently and did everything wrong. He took one small town as indicative of all of Canada.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:17 pm | Permalink


        I hope you told him what you thought of him. The cur deserves a severe thrashing & burying up to his head near an ant colony [syrup on head].

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 7, 2017 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

          I think I just avoided him. His work was crap anyway & he was eventually let go.

  41. Curtis
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Reducing obesity and smoking causes massive increases in government spending. Obese people and smokers die young which saves hundreds of billions of dollars on social security. A male smoker will live on average to 76 or 11 years on social security vs. a non-smoker who lives to 82 or 17 years on social security. In other words, if everyone smoked we could cut our social security tax by about one third. If everyone were obese, non-seat belt wearing alcoholic smokers, then we might be able to cut our pension costs by 50%.

    Illinois and Chicago have huge pension deficit problem. The easiest way to solve this problem would be to hand out cigarettes, booze and soda to all teachers and government employees and fine them for using seat belts.

  42. YF
    Posted August 7, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, carbs don’t make you fat. Excess calories make you fat. The body processes energy in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics. You can lose as much weight as you want eating nothing but carbs, provided that the calories you expend are greater than the calories you ingest. This has been proven in studies again and again.

    Taxes will never work to curb obesity. Only education (or concentration camps) can do that.

    • dabertini
      Posted August 7, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      Finally some sanity!!

  43. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 8, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    there are a number of things here I have been muffling myself over – and the comment I settled on is :

    it will help to know what the rules for discussion of food/eating/drinking/diet/excercise/health are, or to lay some down… because I already got myself in trouble a couple times, and I know there’s a strong yummy food vibe here….

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted August 8, 2017 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      19. If I post about food, and I often do, realize that those meals are exceptions and I don’t always eat like that! There is no need to give me (or the readers) a lesson on healthy eating.

      … [ThyroidPlanet] I guess that settles it.


  44. Posted September 21, 2017 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I find this post excellent.

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