So we’ve all heard about these “sin taxes” – a tax put onto things deemed “unhealthy” by some great arbiter in the sky who strives to dissuade people from doing things like drinking soda or eating junk food. The argument goes that people in America are obese and they are obese because of the insane amounts of junk food Americans eat and if there were a tax on certain foods and candies then people would think twice about eating them. Also the monies collected from this sin tax, one would hope, would end up in some kind of a public health for obese people escrow (because, as everyone knows, the obese can’t afford their own healthcare because they are paying a premium for their soda and candy; so best to take that extra tax money and spend it back on these people we’re bankrupting.) Of course I exaggerate but not by much.
So USA Today; always quick to jump on the hard news such as sin taxes; put their ear to the streets and along with Rasmussen asked folks “Do you favor or oppose ‘sin taxes’ on sodas and junk food?” out of 1000 adult respondents, 55.6% opposed, 32.6% favored, and 11.8% were not sure. This gets to some interesting points (among them, obese people sit around at home taking phone surveys while fit individuals are out of the house, living their life) but it also raises questions such as ‘how much is sin worth to you?’ ‘How is the sin of eating potato chips any more expensive than the sin of infidelity?’ Or child abuse? Or cocaine? Granted it would take a pretty hefty sin tax on potato chips to equal the costs of cocaine but you get what I’m talking about. people sin every day; it just seems that with sin so labeled as X, Y, and Z foods, we are sending a message that other things which are potentially much worse for you are “okay,” because they’re not levied with this sin tax.
Take, as an example, potato salad. Just a quick Google search pulls up TheCalorieCounter.com with their judgment on a standard recipe for potato salad. 32 % of your daily total fat, 55% sodium, a whopping 57% of your daily cholesterol, and a substantial 358 calories in a single serving size (250 g) of potato salad.
Let’s hop over to a Snickers bar. Not as big in size (57 g) but we all know the satisfying combination a Snickers can employ. Okay for one serving of a Snickers bar, 271 calories, 21% of your total daily fat, 2% cholesterol and 6% sodium.
Now the interesting thing is that a Snickers bar would probably have this sin tax levied against it. but potato salad? I don’t think so; no way the potato farmers would stand for that. and yet the potato salad is vastly worse for you than the Snickers bar. The potato salad is a “side-dish” – that means you’re probably eating it (57% of your daily cholesterol) with a primary meal. At least with the Snickers bar you’re probably (hopefully) only eating it as a standalone dessert.
It seems that this sin tax has a few more bugs to work out before people start paying for their choice of sin.