Editorial: Cook County overreaches with unfair beverage tax

  • AssociateD Press/Jeff ChiuA Cook County tax on beverages will go into effect at supermarkets this week.

    AssociateD Press/Jeff ChiuA Cook County tax on beverages will go into effect at supermarkets this week.

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted7/29/2017 2:00 PM

Here's the problem we have with the beverage tax that Cook County is trying to impose on all of us who stop at the supermarket or drive through a fast-food restaurant.

Why a beverage tax?


The answer Cook County officials will give is health, that the county in its benevolence is trying to discourage unhealthy habits.

OK, we have to admit that we don't have a problem with encouraging healthy lifestyles as a general premise.

Cigarettes, for example, are addictive and inherently unhealthy, with no particularly redeeming value. We don't take issue with tobacco taxes as a way to discourage smoking and the tragic consequences it brings.

And we don't have much of a question about taxes on alcohol either, considering how deadly and heartbreaking overindulgence in alcohol can be.

But after that, is it really the government's job in a land of liberty to dictate what our choices and lifestyles should be? And if you argue that it is, where do we draw the line?

Why beverages but not, say, potato chips?

Why beverages but not butter?

Why beverages but not baked goods or egg yolks or ice cream or processed foods or high-sodium soups?

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Why some sweetened beverages, but not all sweetened beverages? That is, why not cafe lattes? Yes, let's think about that for a second: Why indeed beverages but not cafe lattes? What is the logic of that?

The argument against soft drinks is that they have too much sugar or if not that, too much sugar substitutes. Ok, if that's really the problem, what about everything else that has sugar or sugar substitutes. Why are they bad in beverages but tolerated in gum?

Should the government be charging us if the meats we eat fail to reach someone's standard for lean?

Speaking of that, many health experts argue against consumption of red meat no matter how lean it is. County Board President Toni Preckwinkle doesn't seem to be getting worked up about that.

What about caffeine? County officials seem expressly unconcerned about an overindulgence in caffeine even though it can have adverse effects on the heart.

Some studies show a correlation between fish oil and prostate cancer. Should Cook County be taxing fish oil?

And if Cook County's going to tax beverages, why doesn't it impose a tax on tea? Oh, that's right, we almost forgot. They tried taxing tea in Boston a while back and that didn't work out too well.

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