In this file photo, soft drink and soda bottles are displayed in a refrigerator at El Ahorro market in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Rickter Scale: Pour some sugar tax on me

The Rickter Scale is a regular column

Rick Stiebel/Columnist

William Dufty would be doing backflips over the new tax that’s going to put a seven per cent wallop on your wallet every time you purchase a soft drink.

When he penned the cult classic Sugar Blues in 1975, Dufty’s diatribe on the perils of a diet loaded with refined sugar cane was dismissed as fear-mongering, probably propelled by a boost from well-placed lobbyists. People packed around a lot less weight back then, on average. Since Dufty died in 1986, that extra layer around waistlines has attached itself to other body parts on a growing extra large portion of the population. Although I tend to abhor new taxes unless they promote world peace and prosperity for all, I have no problemo with this one because it’s voluntary. If you don’t like the extra tax whack, just make a detour past the soft drinks aisle or ignore those big shiny machines that keep popping up everywhere.

I’m putting on my dinosaur suit long enough to remember that soft drinks were a rarity in our house when I was growing up, a once a weekend indulgence or a treat reserved for special occasions. A half-century later, thanks to the marketing engineers at industry heavyweights Coca Cola and Pepsi, it’s morphed into the beverage of choice for many for at least two meals a day.

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Whether the tax will curb the appetite of a few or many remains to be seen, but any deterrent to the upward curve in the amount of chemical crap we consume will at least tip the scales in the right direction.

Since the tax was announced, it’s been attacked in some quarters as a punish on people living below the poverty line. That’s a tough one to digest, considering fruit, vegetables and good old Tapola are better options when it comes to tightening the budgetary belt and stretching scant food dollars. I heard a radio interview recently with a health consultant who suggests that since the tax targets teenagers, they will wean themselves off of soft drinks because of the cost increase. Sorry, but I can’t buy that line of logic, based on the number of kids I see coming up with the cash to blow clouds of vaping products, smoke pot, or knock back a few brewskies.

Before you dismiss this as a holier than thou Rickter rant, I will confess that I blow through a six-pack of 710 ml plastic cylinders of ginger ale every two to three weeks. I once read many years ago that it’s less harmful than cola, a pitch from Canada Dry that I’ve recycled for the bride too many times to keep track of.

This new tax, however, raised her curiosity enough to examine the amount of sugar in my beverage of choice, and it appears my Canada Dry addiction days are numbered. She’s started bringing home Bubly sparkling water because it’s healthier, and she’s a big fan of the clever ad campaign that features Michael changing labels with a marker. I’m partial to the blackberry flavour so far, but as the bride likes to say with alarming regularity, I remain a work in progress.

Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.


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