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Opinion: Don't Ban Unhealthy Food -- Tax It!

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    Why let a good taxable product go to waste?

    New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has just announced a plan to ban sales of soft drinks weighing more than 16 ounces. According to the New York Daily News:

    The city is working on a plan to ban large soft drinks and other sweet beverages in eateries, theaters and most other venues, City Hall announced Wednesday.
    The new rules, which could take effect next March, would prohibit cups larger than 16 ounces of any liquid that contains more than 25 calories per 8 ounces. That targets sodas, sweetened ice tea and energy drinks. Diet sodas and milk-based beverages — even calorie laden milkshakes — will remain lawful.
    “Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’” Bloomberg told The New York Times. “New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something.”

    Chicago would never ban Big Gulps. A few years ago, Ald. Edward Burke tried to persuade the City Council to copy Bloomberg’s ban on trans fats in restaurant. Burke’s proposal went nowhere. Here in the Midwest, overeating is a way of life. Besides, in Illinois, we don’t ban unhealthy behavior. We tax it. Just this week, the General Assembly approved Gov. Pat Quinn’s $1 a pack increase in the cigarette tax. The Senate unanimously passed Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon’s $3 surcharge on strip clubs that serve alcohol.

    While we’re at it, here are some other bad behaviors we should tax.

    • Cheetos. It’s not just that Cheetos have no nutritional value -- the website Calorie Count gives them a C-minus -- it’s that Cheetos eaters always throw their empty bags on the ground. There’s even a website -- rogersparkcheetos.blogspot.com-- devoted to practice in the Far North Side neighborhood. Someone has to pick up those Cheetos bags, which is why the city should impose a 25-cent “litter fee” on Cheetos.
    • Half-pints sold in plastic flasks. Besides encouraging binge drinking, these bottles are invariably tossed in the gutter or under the L tracks by drunks who guzzle them down on the way home from the liquor store. Since there’s a public health issue, as well as a litter issue, we should add 50 cents.
    • White Owl Cigars. The Cigar Aficionado trend has not reached gas stations and convenience stores in inner-city neighborhoods. These stogies are hollowed out and refilled with marijuana, to make blunts. Tobacco, drug use, and litter, all in one package. Let’s have a $1 surcharge on cheap cigars.
    • Foie gras. Ald. Joe Moore’s ban was overturned, but I’ll bet the City Council will be much more interested in a tax. 
    • Bacon. Because it has its own festival, because a Yorkville bakery is putting it on donuts, thus ensuring its clientele future knee, cholesterol and diabetes problems, and because mass pig farming is the filthiest form of agriculture. You want to pig out and make yourself look like a pig, you pay a $2 a pound tax. 

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