Government should target sugar like it targeted nicotine





Our culture is, in the very literal sense, addicted to sugar.

Comparable to addictive drugs such as nicotine and cocaine, sugar produces symptoms: craving, tolerance, and withdrawal. Additionally, sugar stimulates the human brain in the same way an opioid does.

Considering Americans consume almost 20 teaspoons of sugar a day on average, it’s no longer an occasional treat, but an addictive substance, toxic to health.

University of California researchers found a correlation between sugar and higher rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, heart, liver and kidney disease when looking at 60 studies conducted between 2001 and 2016.

In contrast, the California researchers also discovered 26 studies in those same years which showed no link between sugar and poor health.

The difference between the studies? The initial 60 were led by independent researchers while the latter were conducted by researchers who held financial ties to the beverage industry.

Coca-Cola has provided millions to scientists, seeking to downplay the negative effects of sugar, as reported by the New York Times last year. With soda and other sugary drinks as the largest source of added sugar in the United States, Coca Cola’s actions come as no surprise.

The soda industry’s success largely comes from adding the hidden, sweet substance to their drinks, making their product cheap and addictive to consumers.

However, with obesity rates doubling in the last 30 years and growing evidence for sugar’s toxic and addictive attributes, it’s time for the U.S. government to target the beverage industry in the way it targeted nicotine: by placing a tax on sugary drinks.

A soda tax is nothing new. Scandinavian countries implemented similar sugar taxes many years ago and in 2012 France and Hungary followed suit.

Mexico, notorious for its consumption of sugary drinks, joined the list in 2014. Following the tax, the country saw a 12 percent decrease in consumption of soft drinks and a four percent increase in healthier, non-taxed beverages such as bottled water.

Likewise, Berkeley, Calif., implemented the United States’ first soda tax last year. Even amidst a hot summer, soda sales decreased by 20 percent in some neighborhoods.

Applauding these countries, the World Health Organization is a proponent of the sugar tax.

“Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes,” said Dr. Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, in a public statement. “If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives.”

He added that sugar taxes can also cut healthcare costs and can create revenue for government to invest in health services.

Realizing their sales will inevitably decline, beverage companies will reduce the sugar in their drinks.

Obviously a soda tax won’t be a panacea for abnormal sugar consumption and the health issues that follow, but it is a step in the right direction toward helping consumers make healthier choices.

Jessica Ruf is a sophomore journalism and English major from Sioux Falls, S.D

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: