Should We Tax Sugary Drinks Like Gatorade? Some States Say Yes

by Joelle Wisler

Whenever my kids drink orange juice for breakfast, it always seems like within minutes we’re literally peeling them off the ceiling. It’s almost as if they turn into tiny UFC fighters, with glazed-over eyes and the urge to wrestle anyone or anything that moves — their siblings, the dog, their grandmother.

When my kids act like this, it is very difficult to be the nice, non-shouty mom whom I aspire to be. So, because I don’t want to be an asshole, I have found myself cutting back significantly on the amount of juice that I pour with their pancakes.

I live in Boulder County, whose very health-conscious residents recently enacted the largest tax on sugar-based drinks in the country. The tax — coming in at the whopping amount of 2 cents per ounce — will be tacked onto any drink that has more than 5 grams of added sugar per 12 ounces. For example, a 32-ounce Gatorade that used to cost $1.00 will now cost $1.64. In Boulder, this includes any juice that isn’t 100% fruit or vegetable juice.

That’s some serious tax.

Why so steep? Well, in recent years, sugar has come under fire as the newest culprit for a lot of America’s health woes. Studies show some sobering facts, like consuming just one sugar-sweetened beverage a day increases the risk of childhood obesity by 55%, Type-2 diabetes by 25%, and death from cardiovascular disease by 30%. One sugary drink a day. What?! Those statistics are pretty staggering, and I’m actually really surprised that I survived my Mountain Dew addiction during my teen years.

But let’s talk about juice. As parents, we encourage our children to drink juice because juice is healthy, right? Well, it turns out that, like many of the sweetened beverages being taxed, juice has a ton of sugar that our kids might not necessarily need.

According to WebMD, “It’s true that 100% fruit juice is a good source of nutrients like vitamin C and potassium. The problem is that too much juice can be an extra source of sugar and calories. Juice also doesn’t contain the same fiber and phytonutrients that raw fruits have. WebMD also says that the healthiest option is 100% vegetable juice. (Although I think a kid who likes pure tomato juice is probably as rare as a spotted unicorn.) It also sounds like any juice with the word “cocktail” in it might be as terrible for you as injecting meth directly into your veins.

It’s widely known that fruit juice raises blood sugar more quickly than regular fruit. In fact, “diabetics and people with hypoglycemia are often instructed to drink a glass of orange juice if blood sugar levels are low.” In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that “fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits over whole fruits.” They even recommend that no juice be given to babies under 6 months old and that we should limit our kids’ consumption to 4 to 6 ounces a day. This sounds eerily familiar, like the recommendations we are given about our own adult source of juice in its bottled and corked form. Hmm, that’s odd. Anyway…

You have to do what’s right for your own family, but it’s helpful to know that maybe none of us should be replacing milk and water with copious amounts of sugary fruit juice/wine/margaritas the size of our faces.

My kids are enough as it is without inducing a pure sugar high and then releasing them on their teachers every day to duke it out. I mean, I’m sure their teachers are striving not to be assholes either, and I’d like to give them all the help I can.