WASHINGTON: County’s soda tax more help than hindrance

SHARE WASHINGTON: County’s soda tax more help than hindrance


Remember me? The Fat Nag is back, hands on hips, to weigh in on the raging debate over Cook County’s new tax on sugary drinks.

The county’s new, penny-per-ounce sugar-sweetened and diet beverage tax was supposed to kick in on July 1. The tax includes pop,low-calorie drinks, fruit juices with added sugar, sports and energy drinks, iced tea and lemonade.


Illinois is broke and getting broker. No one wants new taxes, especially the “big soda” lobbying juggernaut conglomerates like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and retail outfits like 7-Eleven.

Opponents went to court to stop the tax. They rail that it will cripple our economy and that confusion over the “unfair” law will trigger mass chaos.

Cook County Board President ToniPreckwinkle, an unapologetic champion, argues the tax will reap $200 million a year in new revenues.

If the sweetened beverage tax is struck down, she will have to lay off 1,100 county employees, Preckwinkle says. That includes the ranks of nurses, doctors and other medical professionals toiling in the county’s health care system — to keep us alive.

Only one thing matters most, the Fat Nag says. This tax can save lives.The Nag’s lifelong mission is to rail, rant, plead and beg us to get the fat out.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are “significant sources of added sugars in the diet of U.S. adults and account for approximately one third of added sugar consumption,” reports the Centers for Disease Control.

That consumption leads to “adverse health consequences,” including obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

It’s a sweet, slow death sentence.

“I don’t think people have any idea how much sugar is in these beverages,” says Julie Mirostaw, the American Heart Association’s Senior Director of Government Relations in Illinois.

She points to research that shows adults who drink one soda or more every day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than those who do not.

Gulp a 20-ounce bottle of soda and you are swallowing the equivalent of 17 teaspoons of sugar. Or six donuts. Or 18 cookies.

Yech. The kiddies might find that delicious, but it’s killing them. Children who consume higher amounts of sugared drinks have a 55 percent greater chance of being overweight or obese compared to those who consume less, shows a study in the British Medical Journal.

Our kids stop for pop on their way to and from school, at the corner store and everywhere else. They are headed toward a lifetime of health problems — and a short one.

The county tax could help avert a health “catastrophe,” Mirostaw said.

Over ten years, it will prevent 37,000 cases of obesity and reduce diabetes by 7 percent, shows a study by the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University.

The tax would fund county community health planning programs, “lifestyle centers” on the South and West sides and efforts to connect needy families with healthy food options.

You cynics are probably thinking, who cares? Let the fatties drink themselves to death!

If you don’t care about saving lives, how about saving some cash? Over 10 years, the tax could realize $222 million in health care costs, according to the Harvard study.

The next court hearing on the tax is scheduled forJuly 21.

Meanwhile, Mirostaw offers some healthy advice: “The best thing you can do is drink water.”

It doesn’t cost a thing.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com

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