• Should sugar be controlled like alcohol? – ctd.

    Lots of interesting feedback on my post on sugar regulation. Some of you have accused me of making straw man arguments; others have used straw man arguments to question my post. So let me take a few minutes to be clear about what I was saying. The article I referenced specifically questioned whether sugar should be regulated like alcohol and tobacco.

    We regulate alcohol by making it illegal to use it before the age of 21. Period. We regulate alcohol by making businesses get a specific, and often hard-to-get, license to sell it. Where I live, it’s illegal to sell it on Sunday. We don’t regulate alcohol by limiting the amount you can put in a drink. Any bar can make any drink they like, with as much or as little alcohol as they want.

    We regulate tobacco by making it illegal to use it before the age of 18. Period. We regulate it by making businesses sell it in specific areas, often hard-to-get at. It’s illegal to put it in vending machines. But we don’t regulate tobacco by limiting the amount you can put in a cigar. Any cigar maker can put as much or as little tobacco in as they want.

    So when someone says that they want to regulate sugar like alcohol or tobacco, that’s what I think of. And it was what they meant, according to reports:

    Sugar is so toxic it should be controlled like alcohol, according to new report that goes so far as to suggest setting an age limit of 17 years to buy soda pop.

    So I find it so odd that so many of you are coming back at me and saying that you think I’m wrong to disapprove of taxing excessive sugar use. That’s not what I said. I am more than willing to consider studies that examine the effects of such a proposal. In fact, I’ve often thought that we should subsidize things we want to encourage in society and tax things we don’t, so I’m not sure why we’re so fixated on subsidizing sugar and so loathe to tax it. But prove it to me. Show me how the tax will function. Make a case based on evidence.

    What I’m not convinced of at all, though, is that we should ban sugar outright for children, make it illegal for me to get it on Sunday, and set up businesses solely for its sale and consumption. And that’s what it means to control sugar like alcohol or tobacco.

    • It doesn’t change your point so more of an FYI, but in Iowa you can drink alcohol under the age of 21 provided it is within a private home and with parents consent and presence (§123.47). Though I have heard some are attempting to change this. I don’t think many parents do this and fewer yet are aware of it.

      Interesting though, since we do already have plenty of establishments that exist solely in peddling sugar/carb products: donuts, bakeries, candy stores, ice cream/frozen yogurt, stores dedicated to coffee never serve just black coffee, chocolate shops, etc.

    • Do you have any randomized trial that show harm from sugar consumption? If not what is the justification for taxing sugar?

      • I’m not saying it’s a good idea, however we do tax things that do not cause harm, such as work, hotel rooms, clothing, etc. (Maybe we shouldn’t.) The reason to do so is to generate government revenue. I do prefer Pigovian taxes, though.

      • Floccina, see the work of John Yudkin and Robert Lustig. Yudkin has a book Pure, White, and Deadly (if you can find it) and Lustig has a presentation on YouTube called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”. I know Lustig’s work is controversial to some and I have not read any of his actual published literature. A starting point anyway.