The familiar hiss of a soda bottle opening is primed to get a little more expensive in the Empire State if a proposal to enact an obesity tax of 18 percent on all regular sodas and "certain high caloric, low nutritional beverages" passes as part of Gov. David Paterson's 2009 budget.
Though the state is facing an unprecedented deficit, Paterson has labeled the measure as a public health item, comparing it to the longstanding cigarette tax, which proponents argue saves tens of thousands of lives every time it is raised.
"What smoking was to my parents' generation, obesity is to my children's generation," and it can have a similar solution," said Paterson in a commentary for CNN. "These taxes may be unpopular, but their benefits are undeniable."
Like charges placed on cigarettes, the so-called soda tax is taking fire and gaining support from all corners. Some say it's necessary to combat an epidemic, while others feel it's an invasion of privacy or an ineffective way to battle the problem.
"One of the factors is how necessary an item is, whether it's considered a luxury or a necessity," said Drew Anderson, an associate professor in the department of psychology at SUNY Albany who studies weight and body image, including obesity research. "It's not clear to me how food fits into that. From the research I've seen and looking at the studies, it really does look like there's a real health effect."
In what has become a widely discussed viral video, state Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines posted a video on You Tube that made the case for the soda tax and was filmed in his kitchen. In the five-minute video, Daines parades out pounds of sugar and fake fat, arguing that the consumption of sugary drinks has increased in line with American obesity.