To the editor:
I disagree completely with the thrust of The Daily News editorial entitled "Spin docs hard at work on candy, soda." Economics is, in part, the science of incenting some behaviors and disincenting others. Our nation and our state are faced with an epidemic of obesity. About 22 percent of men and women in Massachusetts are obese, i.e., having a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 25.0 kg/meters squared. The National Conference of State Legislatures indicates that obesity among children in Massachusetts grew from 13 percent in 2003 to 30 percent in 2007! According to a study published in 2009, obesity will add approximately $344,000,000,000 to American health care costs by 2018. That means that every non-obese American taxpayer, something like 80 million people, will be subsidizing the massively overweight to the tune of $4,300/year. The consumption of candy, sodas and fat are contributing mightily to this problem. The American taxpayer has a legitimate right to look at the workings of the entire system of interests that benefits from and promotes obesity as a way of life. We should be taxing the hell out of fattening foods, and we should, in fact, be subsidizing the consumption of healthy foods, like broccoli, an option that you seem to find ridiculous.
Furthermore, the closing of your argument here is astonishing! You imply that the creation of a special category for cigarettes that makes them subject to particularly high rates of taxation is a bad thing. What have you been smoking! Tobacco consumption, and especially cigarettes, add another $1,200/year to the medical costs incurred by healthy taxpayers. Now, consider how astronomical the price tag for obese smokers is to the taxpayer.
As far as I'm concerned, people have the right to consume whatever they want to. It's a free country. But that doesn't mean that people like me should be forced to live in a "nanny state" where we have to accept the crazy choices others make that take a big bite out of our pocketbooks and the overall well-being of our society. Obesity is a complicated topic for which there are no simple solutions. But tax policy is definitely one of the tools we have available to address the problem.