comScore Juice Drink Tax Explained

Annoying “Juice Drink Tax” Ads Explained

juiceIf you’re a frequent MSNBC viewer, you have no doubt sat through that mopey-faced lecture on how a tax on “sodas and juice drinks” will cause foreclosures and business closings. It’s the kind of whiny appeal that I hate no matter who makes it, but I decided to get to the bottom of this one anyway, and maybe take a stand.

If you missed it, here’s the ad:



It’s annoying because it makes an empty, stupid argument. Pennies add up. Genius, you saw Superman 3.

My knee-jerk response to the chilly mom’s declaration that “Pennies add up when you’re trying to feed a family,” was “Well, don’t feed your family crap, then.” The heart of this issue is that (non-diet) sodas and “juice drinks” are really, really bad for us, and a tax would rein in consumption while funding health care programs.

So, what the frak is a “juice drink?” For purposes of this kind of tax, it’s any beverage that contains added high fructose corn syrup, and less than 70% fruit juice. The ad makes it sound like congress is attacking all fruity goodness.

The New York Times gives the issue the famously useless “balanced” treatment by presenting, equally, both the New England Journal of Medicine’s finding that HFCS drinks contribute greatly to obesity and related illnesses, plus the American Beverage Association’s finding that “all calories count.” Who can say which is true?

The tax proposed is a 1-cent-per-ounce levy on the targeted drinks, with the goal of reducing consumption and funding health care programs.

So far, I’m sold. I love the refreshing 1 calorie goodness of Pepsi One, and my 4 year-old makes up for his narrow diet by drinking loads of V8 Fusion. The tax also excludes milk, water, and lots of other healthier alternatives. Why doesn’t commercial mommy love her family that much?

The problem is, V8 Fusion, for example, costs $4.39 for a 2 quart bottle that lasts 2 or 3 days. $4.39 will buy you a kiddie-pool full of juice “drink.” Just ask Dave Chappelle about that difference.

So, while this tax removes the option of serving your kids cheap crap, it does nothing to help them afford good, healthy alternatives. If you grant that the government should be doing something about this, maybe they should also create incentives for real juice and dairy producers to make their products more affordable. That would go a long way toward bolstering their motives beyond raising money to plug budget holes by saying “Eff the fatties!”

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