The Soda Tax – Missing the Point?

Blog, Various Authors

Keyannie Norford, 17
I know that no matter what the price of soda is, if I want it I will go get it. As a senior attending De Anza High School, I also know how popular soda is among teens. I used to drink so much soda that it started to make me sick, and I finally had to decide between my health and this sugary drink: I chose my health.

But even though I’ve stopped drinking soda, I think a tax on sugary drinks is absurd. Raising taxes will not stop people from handing over their cash at the register and it will not stop obesity rates from rising.
Plus, where is all this extra money going to go? The money from Measure N is supposed to better local schools and communities. The problem is, who will make sure that really happens?
And just because raising taxes on cigarettes and alcohol has been successful in lowering sales and limiting exposure, that doesn’t mean it will work for sugary drink consumption. Soda is the most popular refreshment in America today, and raising taxes on something so popular will only put a dent – if even that — in the problems of obesity and healthcare.

Jennifer Dueñas, 19
Richmond youth are this city’s leading consumers of sweetened beverages and will be the most impacted by the proposed soda tax. So why do so few know about it?

“I don’t feel comfortable answering any questions about the soda tax,” said Anthony Martinez, 19, “because I don’t know what it is.”

The purpose of Measure N – the sweetened beverage tax on the ballot this November — is to combat obesity in the Richmond community. It is not just about the soda, or even about small business, where much of the focus around the debate has been.

According to a 2011 report for the Richmond City Council, which focused on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption on the health of Richmond residents, 24 percent of children aged WHAT’S THE AGE HERE? consume one or more sweetened beverages daily. Another 67 percent of adolescents consume one or more sweetened beverages daily.

Youngsters here have a big stake in what happens come November. But when I asked thirteen of Richmond’s young folks, including Martinez, about what this soda tax means to them, most said they’d never heard of it.

Monica Diaz, 19, said that while she didn’t know much about the tax, she did think it would “hurt small businesses, but I’m pretty sure that’s wrong because it’s not its purpose.”

Of the thirteen, ten youth admitted that they didn’t know what the soda tax actually was. Two guessed that it had something to do with some sort of health issue. Only one young person was completely knowledgeable of the tax and is in favor of the measure.

While young people’s ignorance of a tax that directly affects them is disappointing, even more saddening is the lack of effort that has been placed into educating the community around what this measure is really about.

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