Medical scientists in San Francisco have sent a chill wind blowing through the IT industry as they issue a call for swingeing taxes on "soda, fruit punch, sweet tea, sports drinks, and other sweetened beverages".
A collection of health profs and other researchers led by Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo (associate professor of medicine and of epidemiology and biostatistics at California uni's San Francisco campus) say they have now put numbers on the horrific toll exacted as Americans poison themselves with no less than 13.8 billion gallons* of disgustful pop annually. Furthermore they say that huge numbers of lives would be saved if only the government would slap a hefty tax on the sugar-laden beverages of death - to the tune of a cent per fluid ounce.
They estimate that such a "penny-per-ounce" tax on sweetened beverages would prevent nearly 100,000 cases of heart disease, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 deaths every year. It would deliver a hefty $13bn in revenue to the hard-pressed US exchequer, and save $17bn in medical expenses.
"You would also prevent 240,000 cases of diabetes per year," says Bibbins-Domingo, whose team has just published a paper outlining their ideas in the journal Health Affairs.
Here in Blighty one might consider the option of simply having tea, coffee or a refreshing pint instead of a ghastly jumbo bargain monster hand-tureen of carbonated sugar'n'acid solution, but in California this is hardly possible as the dangers of alcohol and caffeine have long led people there to frown on consumers of such lethal potions as marginal lunatics unworthy of any serious place in society: and in any case it is well known that drinking coffee or tea destroys the planet.
Thus it would seem that America (middle-class western coastal America, anyway) will soon take another step down the path of righteousness towards the ultimate destination where one is allowed to drink nothing but tapwater (possibly filtered to remove any inadvertent traces of flavour that might creep in). What, you thought it was all right to drink mineral water, or bottled water of any kind? Don't be a fool. ®
*This equates to a cool 45 gallons per head per year on average: or roughly enough to fill the Suez Canal with Peach Snapple.