February 25, 2010

Boo, to Colorado’s candy tax

I rely on the box of truffles in my fridge like others do eggs, milk, or butter. Smooth, round and rich the chocolate never disappoints and can be counted on during times of stress, celebration, or simply because I deserve it—usually daily. Shortbread cookies and jelly beans mingle with the staples on my pantry shelves and around the office I’m the go-to girl when looking for a sweet pick-me-up. So, (as a recent Coloradoan) when I caught whiff of this new candy tax, I had a vested interest.

I agree candy is not good for you. And yes, some (okay I) may have a problem with it. But, this half-thought-out tax is leaving me sour. Under Colorado’s law signed yesterday, “any preparation of sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners in combination with chocolate, fruits, nuts or other ingredients or flavorings,” gets a price hike. Potentially, you may be paying more for those chocolate covered almonds or goji berries while other things like a Twix candy bar are exempt. Why? Anything with flour including brownies, pies, doughnuts and cookies are not impacted by the legislation. Since a Twix contains a cookie, it’s not effected. Anyone else confused?

Additionally, some of the health benefits of what's being deemed “candy” are well-documented. Dark chocolate, for example, is rich in antioxidants, and chocolate covered nuts and berries deliver (among other things) fiber with that sweet kick. Should these foods be held to the same standards as say, Sour Patch Kids? I don’t think so.

To be fair, recent research by the Association for Psychological Science shows that taxing unhealthy foods may encourage healthier eating habits. The question is, how is “unhealthy” defined? In this study, the scientists used a calorie-for-nutrition value—basically a cost/benefit analysis. Wouldn’t this be a better framework for the Colorado law? Admittedly, my favorite confections would still likely get the unapproved stamp, but that’s a price I’d be o.k. to pay.

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