Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The "obesity tax"
I thought about posting on this a few days ago, when Governor Paterson first proposed a tax on non-diet soda, and decided that other folks had tackled it ably, so no need.
Tonight, as I was listening to yet another commentator go at this issue on NPR, I thought about my friend P., who became diabetic a couple of years ago, stopped eating sugar altogether, lost 30 pounds, and nearly blinded herself cooking with Splenda. She used it in a dish she cooked on the stovetop and leaned over the pot at just the wrong moment. Splenda, it seems, contains chlorine, and apparently some of that chlorine is released during cooking. P. got a faceful of it and went temporarily blind. Luckily she got her vision back.
I thought about the long-running debate over whether aspartame (the artificial sweetener in Equal and NutraSweet) causes cancer. Well, actually, it does cause cancer in lab rats; the question is whether its carcinogenic properties extend to humans, and at what levels/doses. When I was growing up, my mother and grandmother and pretty much every grown-up woman I knew kept a little enameled or cloisonne pill holder in their purses. I used to beg my grandmother to let me use the tiny tongs that came with hers to drop sacccharine pills into her after-dinner coffee. My grandmother died of lymphoma, probably more closely related to her years of smoking than to her saccharine intake. Or was it?
I think Governor Paterson's tax has more to do with New York State's budget deficit than anything else, but I still have to wonder whether he thinks it's better to risk blindness or cancer than fatness. Remember that study where nearly 90 percent of people surveyed said they'd rather be blind than fat? I guess Governor Paterson has his finger on the public pulse after all.