By now, we all know that sugary soft drinks and fruit drinks/juices should be once in a while treats, not the majority of children’s or adult’s daily beverages. The sugars in these drinks, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup, can contribute to obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.

The New York Times reports that New York’s Governor Paterson’s administration has proposed a sales tax (some are reporting it as 18%; others 15%) on sugary sodas and juices saying the tax would help reduce obesity rates and raise hundreds of millions of dollars each year that would be given to health programs.

“We are seeing an obesity epidemic; one out of every four New Yorkers is obese, up from about 14 percent in 1995,” Laura L. Anglin, the state budget director, said at a news conference. She cited research linking soft drinks to obesity in children and diabetes in women and predicted that the tax would curb consumption of the affected drinks by 5 percent.
This, of course, has sparked quite a debate. Health officials don’t know if would actually do any good. The American Beverage Association calls it a “money grab.” Many store owners don’t think that the tax will stop people from buying the sodas and juices.

I see another problem with this. The tax will not be levied on diet sodas. Are diet sodas really any healthier than sugary sodas? They may not have the calories, but the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas pose their own health risks. Will parents, who choose to serve Coke each night with dinner simply start serving Diet Coke?

And did the people who devised this soda tax know about the research that says diet soda drinkers gain more weight than those who don’t drink diet soda? Diet soda lulls a person into thinking she can eat more because she’s consuming no calories in her beverage. Trust me, I know this one personally.

This obesity tax, as some are calling it, isn't the only proposed tax. It’s part of a bigger tax plan to raise money for an ailing New York that has seen its tax revenue plummet as Wall Street struggles. Some of the other taxes proposed – downloadable entertainment, clothing, wine (NO – not wine!), and massages.

Right now, it’s just a proposal. There will probably be many changes before it becomes tax law.

But those in charge of the state of NY shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking they will make people healthier by taxing their sugary drinks. If they are going to tax them, just tax them. Don’t try to make it seem as if the tax has other benefits besides raising money. It’s ridiculous.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Taxation on carbonation: NY considers soda tax
NY state governor proposes tax on sugary sodas and fruit juices to fight obesity. Really?