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Putting a 20% tax on drinks with sugar


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An organization is demanding the federal government put a 20% tax on drinks with sugar in them.  This would include all beverages such as pop, juices, cold drinks, coffee, and teas.  Would you be in favour of such a tax?  The idea is to force Canadians to reduce consumption of drinks with sugar in them and thereby reduce obesity and health problems.  Some opponents say this will not reduce consumption.  Is this a misguided attempt at social engineering?  Is it an assault on personal freedom?  They can calculate it will bring in over 10 billion dollars of tax revenue for the government.  What do you think?  Good idea or bad?

Edited by blackbird
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38 minutes ago, ?Impact said:

Why not doughnuts, and the many other sources of unhealthy carbohydrates including simple sugars. How about putting a tax on body fat?

 

Only on the things that contribute to body fat.  And a tax break on gym memberships .. but only if the gym could prove, through biometrics, that you'd actually attended at least 50 times in a year (couple weeks off for sick/vacation/etc).  

I don't buy many sugary drinks, just the mixer for my rye, so I'd not be paying much.   I think it's a good idea, if it helps educate people as to what is making them fat, tired and sick.

 

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3 minutes ago, dialamah said:

And a tax break on gym memberships ..

How about a partial tax refund on gym memberships so that this does not become yet another benefit to the rich and the poor people can become unhealthy. In fact most of these tax breaks should be at the same percentage for everyone, and not next to zero refund for the poor. Why does Argus get his gym membership cut more in half from the government (he claims he pays 53%), where other less well off people get back only a few dollars?

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54 minutes ago, ?Impact said:

How about a partial tax refund on gym memberships so that this does not become yet another benefit to the rich and the poor people can become unhealthy. In fact most of these tax breaks should be at the same percentage for everyone, and not next to zero refund for the poor. Why does Argus get his gym membership cut more in half from the government (he claims he pays 53%), where other less well off people get back only a few dollars?

 

Argus has to pay all this tax because of the work he chose to do; if he wanted to pay less tax, he should not have chosen a job that pays so much.  

The government eliminated the children's fitness tax credit.  I don't know if this is a good move or not; it seems to have primarily benefited families that could afford to put kids into extra-curricular activities, who probably already had a better fitness level anyway.  But it would be interesting to know if it substantially increased participation in the programs to which it applied.

 

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While I'm not inherently against a sugar tax, the justification for the 20% tax is not pigouvian. They don't take into account the disutility from a reduction in the loss of pleasure from consuming delicious sugary drinks and they don't take into account the disutility from lower effective income of consumers. If they want to justify such a tax, they need to calculate the net external cost of sugar consumption and propose a tax of value equal to the net external cost. Then the tax would be pigouvian and I could support it.

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Unfortunately, this is one of the few non-discriminatory ways to get unhealthy poors to eat/drink better.

 

I'm for it. I'm also against unlimited health care for people whose BMI is in the upper/lower 10th percentiles. Unless of course, there is a legitimate medical reason. And big-boned doesn't count.

 

I've definitely reduced the amount I smoke cigarettes because of the price.

Edited by BillyBeaver
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Every damned drink has sugar in it.  So basically they want us to drink water?  100% real fruit juice has tons of sugar in it, and it's not really much healthier than processed sugars, it still has mega calories and carbs.

Then people will switch to cheaper diet drinks and then we'll all die from the crap in that stuff that they figure out in 20 years is mega harmful.

Edited by Moonlight Graham
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No thank you. I'm fit, at an ideal weight, and consume sugary drinks including fruit juice and sweetened tea on a regular basis. I even have the occasional coke. The human body needs energy, and sugar is just that. Not my fault that some people have a ton of sugar and then just sit around instead of burning it. 

If you want to tax something, tax the people that get fat for no valid medical reason, or worse yet, enable their kids to get fat. 

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If we are talking about targeted tax, then how about we use the proceeds to make healthier food choices cheaper. Fresh produce seems to be creeping up much faster than anything else. Yes, some of that has to do with the season but even in season things are out of hand. This past fall the prices of apples seemed to be unusually high, during the summer the hothouse tomatoes seemed to be the cheapest ones and now everything is way too expensive. This should extend to prepared foods as well. I remember the days when if you wanted a cheap lunch you went for the soup & salad, now these seem to be the most expensive items on the menu.

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1 hour ago, BillyBeaver said:

Unfortunately, this is one of the few non-discriminatory ways to get unhealthy poors to eat/drink better.

 

I'm for it. I'm also against unlimited health care for people whose BMI is in the upper/lower 10th percentiles. Unless of course, there is a legitimate medical reason. And big-boned doesn't count.

 

I've definitely reduced the amount I smoke cigarettes because of the price.

There are some doctors who will not give you heart surgery if you are a smoker.   I overheard a doctor tell a smoking patient that on the heart ward.   That saves a lot of money too.

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8 minutes ago, ?Impact said:

If we are talking about targeted tax, then how about we use the proceeds to make healthier food choices cheaper. Fresh produce seems to be creeping up much faster than anything else. Yes, some of that has to do with the season but even in season things are out of hand. This past fall the prices of apples seemed to be unusually high, during the summer the hothouse tomatoes seemed to be the cheapest ones and now everything is way too expensive. This should extend to prepared foods as well. I remember the days when if you wanted a cheap lunch you went for the soup & salad, now these seem to be the most expensive items on the menu.

Unless you put price controls in, subsidizing the healthy foods won't help. Supermarkets and restaurants have figured out that people are willing to pay a premium for the foods that they think of as healthy (i.e. the buyers of healthy foods are often upper-middle class), so they increase the price to what the market will support to maximize their profit. 

At the same time, taxing foods that are considered unhealthy due to sugar or being "junk food" is really quite unfair to people who eat these foods responsibly. 

Therefore I really think the best solution is financial incentives for eating healthy and living healthy, at the outcome side of things rather than at the food side of things. Perhaps a tax credit/refund for people that maintain a healthy weight? Easily justifiable since they are saving the healthcare system money. 

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If people started being denied medical care because they are overweight, drink liquor, don't exercise enough, or because of a whole string of other sins, there would be very few people who would qualify for medical care.  I don't think the medical system can discriminate against anybody based on anythiing.  Everybody has a right to receive medical care.  The problem is the long waiting list for some things, the high cost of certain drugs, and the overcrowded emergency rooms, and overcrowded hospitals.

As far as quality of medicare care, Canada is way down the list of countries providing good medical care.  Costs are escalating and care is declining in some ways.  Governments are failing to act to rectify the problems with the health care system.  All they can come up with is a 20% tax on sugar, while the health care system deteriorates.  Patient blaming by the elites.  One of the weaknesses of democracy.  Nobody is accountable because there are so many issues at election time.

Edited by blackbird
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50 minutes ago, Bonam said:

Perhaps a tax credit/refund for people that maintain a healthy weight?

Yes, certainly that has some merit. It does seem to clash with other unhealthy activities like smoking, which many people use to control their weight. I don't think there is a universal solution, but yes weight could be one indicator to look at. There is certainly a range of weight that is somewhat healthy for an individual based on gender, height, etc. Perhaps anyone in that range has a zero deductible on healthcare, and outside that range you pay a deductible of $1 per kilogram squared (or perhaps to the 1.5 or something) to make it a logarithmic curve. Yes, underweight people need to cough up as well. I will give some example of overweight (same would apply to underweight by same amount) based on the BMI range for my age/sex/height rounded to the nearest $1. The other metric that might be better is % body fat. If we assume I weighed the following, here are the deductibles I would pay with the kg squared formula:

  • 135 lbs to 182 lbs (ie. within range) - $0
  • 190 lbs - $13
  • 200 lbs - $67
  • 210 lbs - $161
  • 220 lbs - $297
  • 230 lbs - $474
  • 240 lbs - $692
  • 250 lbs - $951

If anyone thinks that ratio is too high here is kg to the power of 1.5:

  • 135 lbs to 182 lbs (ie. within range) - $0
  • 190 lbs - $7
  • 200 lbs - $23
  • 210 lbs - $45
  • 220 lbs - $72
  • 230 lbs - $102
  • 240 lbs - $135
  • 250 lbs - $171

 

Edited by ?Impact
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16 minutes ago, ?Impact said:

Yes, certainly that has some merit. It does seem to clash with other unhealthy activities like smoking, which many people use to control their weight. I don't think there is a universal solution, but yes weight could be one indicator to look at. There is certainly a range of weight that is somewhat healthy for an individual based on gender, height, etc. Perhaps anyone in that range has a zero deductible on healthcare, and outside that range you pay a deductible of $1 per kilogram squared (or perhaps to the 1.5 or something) to make it a logarithmic curve. Yes, underweight people need to cough up as well. I will give some example of overweight (same would apply to underweight by same amount) based on the BMI range for my age/sex/height rounded to the nearest $1. The other metric that might be better is % body fat. If we assume I weighed the following, here are the deductibles I would pay with the kg squared formula

Perhaps a better approach would be to encourage everyone to take their free yearly physical with their doctor. The doctor can evaluate their health and make recommendations as to courses of action the person should take to stay healthy or get healthier. If the person demonstrates that they follow these recommendations, they qualify for whatever financial incentive (tax break, bonus check from the government, whatever). If they don't, then they don't qualify. Recommendations could include exercising more, eating healthier, losing or gaining weight, quitting smoking, reducing drinking, etc, depending on the person's situation. 

Basically integrate a system that incentivizes people to follow reasonable advice from their doctors about living a healthier lifestyle. 

The more I think about this idea the more I like it. People would develop a health plan with their doctor on a yearly basis and if they meet their goals, they get a financial reward from the government (which would statistically be more than covered by savings in the healthcare system if people lived healthier lifestyles). This way it takes out all the arbitrariness of setting uniform numbers for a lot of people and it makes a person and their doctor a team working together to achieve certain goals. The health plans people develop with their doctors should be incremental from year to year, setting realistic targets. And even very healthy and fit individuals would still benefit from coming in for a yearly physical and consultation, to at least get screened for various possible diseases (cancers, etc), where right now a lot of healthy individuals don't bother. 

Edited by Bonam
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Incentive is key. I like both of the above ideas although I would adapt them both. You can't force people to see their doctors. It's very difficult even finding a family doctor where I live.  How then to implement?

1) Make it a program to opt into, therefore only the healthy people that benefit from the incentive will opt-in. Thereby defeating the purpose.

2) Force all Canadians to get a physical within 3 months of doing their taxes. This will be labelled as draconian and fought tooth and nail by conservatives and liberals alike. Many people have a healthy fear/irrational phobia of hospitals/doctors as well. During the physical, the doctor will provide you with nutritional literature and sign a form stating your overall BMI/general health.

3) Tax the worst culprits, fast food and products with high HFCS. The corn lobby will freak the fuck out and conservatives will lament another "useless" tax. Fast food is big money. As is coffee. This won't go over well.

4) Subsidize farmers (dairy) into growing more fresh local non GMOproduce. Provide a framework for distribution for all Canadians, rural and urban. Don't waste money on ad campaigns and information because unhealthy people will ignore it anyways.

5) Incentivize food processors to use/reduce HFCS in their products. Look at coke stevia for example. Or mexican coke that still uses cane sugar and is super delicious.

6) Genetic testing in children to identify markers to predict at-risk individuals.

 

None of these alone is enough to effect lasting change on enough Canadians to make a difference but a combination of  some/all of them could have a noticeable effect.

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59 minutes ago, BillyBeaver said:

Look at coke stevia for example.

Cool, I never heard of that before. Just looked it up and surmise you mean CocaCola Life which uses both cane sugar and stevia for sweetener. I assume the sugar helps with the taste, but to limit the calories and still make it sweet they use some stevia as well. I miss the CocaCola from my youth, when they did use cane sugar. The mass conversion to aluminum cans and plastic bottles happened around the same time as going from cane sugar to HFCS so while I associate the taste with the glass bottles it is the move away from cane sugar that is the main culprit.

Now if I could just get it in 10oz glass bottles for ten cents (plus two cent deposit). Don't forget cork to seal the cap, not plastic, that conversion was several years before getting rid of the glass bottles entirely. There were often prizes and contests on the underside of the cap liners, you had to be careful with the cork liners not to break them when removing them from the cap.

I just learned that one of the reasons for the taste difference is plastic bottles don't hold the carbonation in as well as glass or cans. I guess if I try the CocaCola Life I will get a can, or it seems they also have bottles if I can find them somewhere. Another difference of course might be the local water that was used as the bottling was local in those days, and now there are just a few large plants.

Edited by ?Impact
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8 minutes ago, BillyBeaver said:

Cool story, your nostalgia has contributed absolutely nothing to the conversation at hand though.

Yeah, I kinda realized that while I was typing it but I thought what the hey, instead of blaming the end of civilization on "lefties", might as well blame it on the Coca Cola corporation for a refreshing change.

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To be effective, the measure needs to be a VISIBLE tax at point of sale.   To deliver the message, there needs to be awareness, and that is how we can get the best bang for our buck.  My only regret is that only sugary drinks are being targeted - but a good start.

What pisses my wife off is paying GST on a City rec facilities membership.   We don't have a system of isolating dedicated tax in Canada (anywhere that I am aware) so the issue is getting any benefit from the fat taxes into the hands of the sick care system (medicine) and also health care (rec facilities, promoting healthful lifestyles and foods, etc.)

Forget about using family physicians.  They are over loaded now, far too busy pushing drugs to do much in health care.  You have to change the entire focus of their education to health care from sick business before they can be effective - and then you have to wait for the deadwood to clear from attrition.

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14 hours ago, ?Impact said:

How about a partial tax refund on gym memberships so that this does not become yet another benefit to the rich and the poor people can become unhealthy. In fact most of these tax breaks should be at the same percentage for everyone, and not next to zero refund for the poor. Why does Argus get his gym membership cut more in half from the government (he claims he pays 53%), where other less well off people get back only a few dollars?

I don't HAVE a gym membership. I have a rowing machine, an elliptical and a treadmill in my basement. I paid full price on them, plus tax.

Nobody needs a tax break on exercising. You can exercise for free if you want to. Run up and down stairs, jog, do yoga. If not, then you can be fat.

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