Hit the wallet, shrink the waist

Weary-eyed students spending late nights studying may eventually have to start paying extra for their caffeine fix. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced his Vermont Healthy Weight Initiative final report on Nov. 17, which included a recommendation for a 1 cent per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). “Overall, the [findings] show that SSBs contribute to weight gain, and their reduction in the diet produces weight loss in those who are overweight or obese,” nutrition professor Rachel K. Johnson said. Johnson said she is a spokesperson for the American Heart Association (AHA) and is an expert on the health and nutrition effects of SSBs. The reason SSBs are targeted as opposed to junk food is because liquids do not make you feel full like solid foods do, which results in people consuming excess calories, Johnson said. “Between 1990 and 2008, Vermont went from an obesity rate of between 10 and 14% to one between 20 and 24%,” according to the attorney general’s personal note in the report. Junior Hannah Hinsley said she is in favor of the tax. “I think the tax will help in reducing people’s weight,” Hinsley said. “Hopefully it will sway many students away from consuming as many empty calories from soda.” Studies have shown that SSBs can have multiple health implications, Johnson said. “Higher SSB intake has been linked to higher incidence of heart disease, hypertension and diabetes,” she said. Hinsley said she thinks the tax will affect people’s purchasing habits. “For people who are only moderate soda drinkers, I feel that they might think twice about their purchase and possibly opt for a different beverage,” she said. Junior Phu-Christine Lam said that she feels the opposite about the tax. “I don’t think the tax will change people’s buying habits at all,” Lam said. “If someone wants to buy a soda, they’ll be willing to pay a few extra cents for it.” The tax could help Vermont’s economy too, Hinsley said. “I believe it will be helpful in generating the funding necessary to implement other aspects of the Vermont Healthy Weight Initiative,” she said.