Our View

Maybe a sugar tax will add common sense to our diets

You would never dream of cradling a bottle of tequila in your child’s left hand, a smoldering, fat cigar in her right, and sitting her down to savour the fumes wafting from the tailpipe of a running Chevrolet.

Why aren’t you thinking twice before handing her an ice-cold bottle of pop?

This week’s call from the Canadian Diabetes Association for a sugar tax is a terrific idea, one that our politicians need to endorse.

Sugary drinks may be the single most under-appreciated health threat facing us today.

The links between high sugar consumption, obesity and diabetes are well-known. The societal costs to families are incalculable, but the out-of-pocket burden on our health care system is easily tallied. According to the CDA, it will amount to $14 billion this year alone.

It’s simply common sense for some of the cost to be shouldered at the root of the problem.

Incessant burning of gasoline wreaks havoc with the environment, which in turn does the same to people’s respiratory systems.

Alcohol takes a terrible toll on livers and on the families forced to struggle with the ramifications of addiction. The link between cigarettes and cancer and a bucketful of respiratory ailments is well-founded.

Perhaps because we don’t want a nanny state, perhaps because we treasure freedom of choice, perhaps because we simply think life is better fueled by a judicious bit of tobacco, alcohol or gasoline we haven’t banned any of these noxious pleasures. But we haven’t ignored them either.

Each has been the focus of widespread attempts to educate or even shame those who overuse and abuse.

Each has been subjected to surcharges and levies aimed at recouping some of the cost it adds to our health care bills.

The same needs to be done for sugary drinks.

Pointed advertising campaigns need to target those who make a case of soft drinks a part of their weekly routine. Moms and dads need to be warned right at the store about the amount of empty calories that slushy drinks or jumbo-size sodas pump into their child’s system.

Meanwhile, adding a sugar tax will create a new funding source for the treatment of diabetes and ailments related to obesity. It may also encourage people to shop for cheaper — and preferably healthier — alternatives to quench their thirst.

By offering your child certain cans of pop, you are effectively spoonfeeding her 10 to 12 teaspoons of sugar with no other nutritional value whatsoever.

If you saw your neighbours feeding their kids sugar by the spoonful, you’d probably be on the phone to social services. But for some reason not everyone is getting the message.

We aren’t trying to demonize pop. We’re not saying never indulge yourself or your kids. The issue is that it should be a treat, not a regular dietary staple.

If your kid is thirsty, give him or her a drink of water.

Then call up your MP and urge them to do some sweet talking about a sugar tax.


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