Opinion: Soda tax misses the mark

If you believed that the Shoreland Protection Bill was about fighting pollution in Vermont’s waters, you also probably believe that a tax on sugary drinks is a health care initiative. Both could not be further from the truth.
The shorelands bill will, in reality, clean up less than 10 percent of the problem and comes very close to a “taking by regulation” of landowner rights. The tax on sugary drinks is somewhat different in that it is a blatant ruse to raise a stream of revenue for a state government millions of dollars in deficit. It is another case of government telling the people you are incapable of making appropriate choices on your own, so government will do it for you.
At the same time, government has given its tacit approval to individuals who make poor choices in that it allows the individual to become less responsible for self. Sugary drinks are not the cause of the weight gains we note in people. If Montpelier was really concerned about this problem, it would be attempting to deal with the “root causes” for people becoming overweight, some of which are: inactive lifestyles, work schedules, lack of access to healthy foods, genetics, children adopting habits of their parents, hormonal problems, antidepressants, lack of sleep, pregnancy, cessation of smoking, dieting, chronic stress and metabolic rates.
I take a moment to look at one of these: chronic stress. Chronic stress is a response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period over which an individual perceives he or she has no control (is defeated). Hormones called corticosteroids are produced to deal with the stress. Normally, the amounts of these fall when the stress retreats. But, if the stress is ongoing, levels of these hormones increase and stay high in concentration. The “defeat” response stress pathway can lead to enhanced lipogenesis (fat creation), visceral obesity (deep abdominal obesity), breakdown of tissues, and suppression of the immune system. Cortisol is also associated to overeating, craving high-caloric fatty and sugary foods, and relocating fat from the circulation and storage depots to the deep internal abdominal area.
To conclude, the issue of weight gain and obesity is a serious and complex health problem in our country today. Its consequences are enormous, not just for the individual involved, but also for the country. Dr. Elizabeth Goodman, of Brandeis University, when considering the connection between depression and obesity, says, “Obesity is not necessarily caused by overeating. … There are different types of depression and different types of obesity. It’s easy to say that it’s all behavioral. That makes it sound like there’s a choice. I’m not sure that it is.”
Brian Bauer

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