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Tax on Soda Is a Finger in the Dike

April 06, 2002

So now we have the proposal to tax soda because we have a number of overweight teens. Well, this Californian is tired of paying for others' lack of responsibility. "New Soda Tax Idea Reignites an Old Debate" (March 30) states that 30% of California teens are overweight or at risk of being so. If I read your article correctly, state Sen. Deborah Ortiz of Sacramento thinks we can remedy this by putting a tax on soda.

It's time to put the blame on the lack of personal responsibility of these teens and their parents. I have kids, and when they reach for a soda, I say no. I've also said things to them like, "Turn off the TV, we're going to the park." Apparently the parents of the 70% of California teens who are not overweight are doing something along those lines. Let's not tax the rest of the people of this state who are making sure that their kids are getting exercise and eating well.

Just as with the issues of violence on TV and in video games, legislators and the media should focus on the real problem: Parents need to get involved. They need to learn to say no and mean it. Children need to be taught good nutrition and the importance of exercise and have it enforced in the home.

This is not like fixing holes in our roads or building schools, in which the state must find ways to generate revenues for such projects. Overweight teens are an easily preventable problem. Taxing the rest of us is a lazy solution to a problem born out of laziness.

Tim Iacofano

West Hills


A tax on soda to fight childhood obesity? Are we ready to tax Nintendo games next? How about considering putting back physical education in schools? How about funding after-school physical activity programs?

As a registered dietitian, I have read the statistics on the growing problem of childhood obesity for a long time. According to the National Institutes of Health, one in five children is overweight, and children have been getting fatter, according to almost every survey that is published. But anyone can look around and see that. Food is not the sole culprit. The issue is much larger than that:

1. A decrease in physical activity.

2. More meals that consist of fatty fast food.

3. Children and teenagers don't care about making healthy food choices; they just want food that tastes good.

4. Parents don't have time to care about what their kids eat or their activity level.

5. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of adult obesity grew 61% between 1991 and 2000. (Who are the role models for these children?)

Anyone who has worked seriously in weight management knows that in order to lose weight you have to be in the proper mind-set to do so. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight are vastly different concepts. Taxing soda and candy bars is tantamount to putting a finger in the dike. The solution to this problem demands a more comprehensive approach.

I agree that childhood obesity is a problem that needs attention. A depressing fact for those of us involved in diabetes care is that Type 2 diabetes in children is growing rapidly. Twenty years ago no one thought of children having this chronic illness. With diabetes comes cardiac problems, neurological problems and a host of costly treatments. Senators, I plead with you to look at the real problems here, talk with experts and your constituents and look for a better way to address this problem.

Mary Crichton-Leaver


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