Don’t Tax Sugar
by Jim Pettegrew,Telluride
Oct 11, 2013 | 1479 views | 12 12 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print


Do we really need a tax on sugary drinks? Is this really the best way to elevate the health level of our community's kids? I don't think so.

This ballot issue's proponents state that 40 percent of Telluride children don't get the recommended amount of physical activity each day. If true, couldn't that be more directly changed with parenting, than with a tax? The same campaign says that Telluride kids -- American kids in general – consume way too much sugar, and mostly through sugary drinks. That's likely true; but aren't most of those drinks, those big gulps, those cases of "sports" drinks, being bought for the kids by the parents themselves?

Better lifelong health and nutrition habits are more likely to result from learning within the family, or schools, and not from a tax. The substantial funds these proponents seem to be spending – on campaign ads, a website and a campaign manager – could go directly toward education, instead of promoting passage of a misguided and likely ineffective tax.


– Jim Pettegrew,Telluride

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October 18, 2013
I thought this kids comment was so awesome that I just had to repost it. This is what 2A is all about, folks. Vote YES YES YES!

(Post from Crpage)

"I am an enrolled Senior at Telluride High School, and also one of the few avid conservatives in the Telluride community. I am also a member of the Kick the Can crew, aiding its passage. So your claim that the Sugar Tax people are all "outsiders" is completely false and incorrect. In fact the idea was generated by a Telluride local. In my personal opinion, having seen what the PEP grant has done for the school community, I am in full support of Kick the Can. Even though, in any other larger scale circumstance, I would be in complete opposition of ANY extra taxes, this tax is generated by our community and benefits our community directly. Other excise taxes, like this, on a nation level can generate huge returns, but by the time they "trickle down" have minimal effects on small communities like ours. A perfect example is Amendment 66 and the proposition to propose an excise tax on the newly regulated commercial sale of marijuana. This new tax, while generating billions for schools, will actually have little to no impact on the Telluride School District because of our size.

The PEP grant has also single-handedly kept the Ski P.E. program at the R-1 School district alive. For any that aren't familiar with this program, it allows students of all ages to engage in on the mountain group ski lessons counting as a physical education credit, required by the state of Colorado. PEP has stepped up to the plate in order to provide other opportunities to students besides skiing. This aids the large amount of lower income families who can't afford a ski pass for their child. The PEP grant, without question, should be a continuing aspect of this already advanced community and I believe without the constant and reliable source such as an excise tax this goal simply is not a reality.

Please consider the benefits over the costs to local businesses, because they are at most minimal to none with the required 10% tax reimbursement, and vote YES to 2A!"

October 20, 2013
And I thought Ginny Gordon's letter was wonderful, too, but I didn't feel the need to re-post it.
October 14, 2013
Mr. Pettegrew,

You mentioned the fact, 40% of telluride children don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity each day and then follow it up with, “if true”. This fact whether you choose to believe it or not, is true.

The Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) is a U.S. Department of Education initiative that provides grants to communities in an effort to promote healthy active lifestyles for kids nation-wide. The PEP grant was awarded to the Telluride Medical Center in 2010 for kids grades K-12. PEP is responsible for providing the U.S. Department of Education with quality data on physical activity, fitness, and nutrition levels of all kids in Telluride and surrounding area*. The data was collected by providing pedometers to kids and taking measurements of their height and weight to determine body mass index or BMI. I would like to share some other facts collected by the PEP grant:

-20% of Telluride children are overweight or obese. Many people believe this is fabricated because they don’t “see” them. That’s most likely because these kids are at home, inside, being inactive.

-60% don’t get the recommended 2 fruits and 3 vegetables each day.

I agree parents teaching their kids how to make healthy choices is crucial, but what if those parents are misinformed? Are you aware that a San Pellegrino Sparkling Orange Beverage has 130 calories and 31 grams of sugar? That’s almost as much as a coke! I think it is examples like this Ms. Taddonio is referring to when she mentions the masked marketing efforts of the beverage industry.

Let’s look at families who do the right thing, teach their kids healthy choices but can’t afford to enroll them in sports or other physical activity programs. I don’t think it is fair to call them bad parents. Did you know the cost to join the girls’ lacrosse team is $450, and doesn’t include gear (around an additional $200)? The potential cost of ONE sport for ONE season for ONE child is around $650. PEP (and hopefully the future funding from Proposition 2a) gives scholarships to families who can’t afford the fees it requires to participate in such sports.

How about families that both teach their kids about being healthy and have the money for physical activity programs? In October of 2014 the PEP grant ends. The programs they have started, and supported, will slowly begin to disappear. What then? What do parents do if there are no programs to enroll their kids in? What will happen between the hours of 3-5, the times kids get out of school and parents get home? Without structure and opportunities kids are going home and sitting in front of screen whether they are computer, television, iPads or cell phones.

An argument I frequently hear claims the school should pay for such things. Sadly, they don’t have the funds. In order to get the funds they would have to tax something—maybe properties more? That wouldn’t be good for the real estate (nor would anyone probably votes for it), and wouldn’t you rather use Proposition 2a as a selling point? This is a community that has a sustained funding stream for afterschool programs. We are a community that cares about health and the wellbeing of our children.

Mr. Pettegrew, clearly you are a concerned citizen and I appreciate your comments. As someone with a commitment to this community what do you plan on doing if proposition 2a doesn’t pass and these programs begin to disappear? Will you volunteer your time to take local kids on hikes? Can you run a climbing program? Will you donate to save the grow dome and provide equipment for sports? If you plan on helping through monetary contributions, would they equal or exceed what you would potentially contribute through purchasing sodas with a penny per ounce excise tax?

-C. Pepper Raper


October 15, 2013
Thanks see pepper,

In your opinion there IS an OFFICIAL list! I have not seen one ,or been told whom will be in charge of the OFFICIAL LIST . This group DID double tax baby formula,!so on your list it is not there, but on someone else's list it will be , it ALREADY was!

Telling me 100% fruit juice is good for you , it is not .

Telling me that taking a SODA away from a kid will EDUCATE them on the benefits healthy life style is a real disconnect .

Most families do not live in town, so stating an in town tax will effect food choices is a stretch.

You assume the 463 patients live in town and can vote in town, just because they use our clinic it does not mean they vote or shop in town. Most people do not shop in town and many go else where for health care.

I can buy a 24 pack of pop for two bucks in Montrose. I could start a black market on soda,I'll sell it for the soda tax cost only and still make money, and pay NO TAX to the town !

There is NO sugar ounce counting machine ,sales tax are done on percentage because it is managable. The sugar ounce counter job for business and government is a waste of man power and leaves the door wide open for non compliance and under counting and mis management. I don't want to pay for the new full benefits government sugar ounce tax controller.

"of 463 patients of which Ms. Taddonio, as the Wellness Counselor, looks after. "

"mMany of those patients don’t know the rules of healthy eating"

Maybe Bridget needs to educate her patients rather than testing our patients. Saying that 463 telluridians out of 2000 are uneducated , obese , and ill, is just not true.

Vote NO, if you live in town.

Using a San Pelligrino as an example is a little high brow isn't it ? Because we are really talking about people whom drink orange soda and do not eat oranges !

Also if you lived here long enough you,d know that businesses sponsor ski racers and boarders, so a scholarship fund for kids whom need gear and fees for sports would be a better program.,and and ACTUAL TAX BREAK for donating.

Lacrosse was NEVER a Telluride sport ,they compete with soccer for fields,and uses expensive gear. Soccer has fees, but one needs a field ,some pads and a ball it's less expensive. Let's do a kids gear swap for free and set up a sport donation club.

October 15, 2013
Dear see pepper,

One more item high altitude gardening is a selfish labor of love. We had a drought this year, water is very precious , and our growing season is VERY short,and we grow rocks here,hard to work soil,snow and hail.

So pro porting gardening at this altitude would not be a responsible behavior.gardening in a lower altitude with a longer growing season with ample water, and land area,and requiring less man hours, and then shipping the product to town is actually More responsible.

Humans do what they like to do.

October 16, 2013
See pepper,

One more item I would NEVER serve my kids100% fruit juice ,it's a hollow glass of sugar calories that's the same as soda ! Skim milk ? All sugar calories .

I propose the whole milk club ! Skim and low fat milk are recognized by the body as SUGAR! Whole milk lets a body absorb fat and sugar, a more natural product.

Do we get to lobby for product placement ? Or does only KICK members get to choose ?
October 12, 2013
Dear prettyplease,

That's a great idea...which is why the Telluride Medical Center is already doing it. I am the Wellness Counselor at TMC where I counsel the 463 patients on our heart disease and diabetic registry.

Thank you for your concern,


October 12, 2013
Thank you Bridget,

If 463 people out of 7500 in San Miguel county are diabetic ( I don't know if you can seperate heart from strictly diabetic numbers) then maybe the kid sugar tax should be dropped ,and the aim should be an adult program !
October 11, 2013
Mr. Pettegrew,

The science behind the metabolism of sugar is fairly new, but the message is clear; overconsumption of sugary drinks is the leading cause of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

I’m sure you’ve heard of HDL and LDL cholesterol before. We’ve all know that HDL is the “good” cholesterol and LDL is the “bad”, but have you ever heard of small-dense LDL cholesterol? This is a particularly harmful version of LDL cholesterol that is unique to the way our bodies metabolize sugar.

Our livers convert the sugar we consume into small-dense LDL cholesterol. Amongst other things, this cholesterol causes small cuts in our arterial lining allowing plaque to accumulate. With plaque accumulation comes increased risk for heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.

So why are we only addressing sugary drinks with this tax and not donuts, pastries, and the like? Well, our bodies don’t register the calories we consume in liquid form the same way they do solid calories. Since we evolved to quench our thirst with water, our bodies don’t register the calories we consumed in liquid form. For instance, when was the last time a 32oz Gatorade made you feel full? Probably never, but would you feel full after eat 6 large glazed donuts (that Gatorades sugar equivalent)? Probably so…

We all can agree that good parenting and health education are crucial when it comes to helping our kids make healthier choices-heck, that’s my job! But with the beverage industry spending BILLIONS of dollars annually marketing these products to our kids, it makes it hard for parental messaging to stick.

The Kick the Can campaign received it’s funds from a Telluride home owner passionate about combating the childhood obesity epidemic. Could this family have instead made a donation to the TSD? Sure, but how long would that money last? Not very long…

Our estimates show that a one-penny-per-ounce excise tax on sugary beverage sold in Telluride will raise between $125,000-$200,000 annually.

All of this money will stay directly in Telluride to fund physical activity programs, gardening, and health education for our kids.

I hope I’ve communicated the unique harms of liquid sugar to you and perhaps opened your eyes to some to the compelling science behind the metabolism of sugar. If you don’t vote in favor of 2A, that’s OK, I just want to make sure everyone is casting the most educated votes possible.

I can see that you’ve posted comments and questions on other soda tax articles. It’s clear that you have a lot of questions and I would absolutely LOVE to sit down and talk things through with you. Feel free to contact me at your convenience and we’ll set up a time to chat.

Thank you for this editorial,

Bridget Taddonio

October 12, 2013
Dear Bridget ,

In our a small town maybe we should count the diabetics and build a program to help them, it would be most health and cost effective .
October 13, 2013
Ms. Taddonio,

I appreciate much of the dialogue that's come from this ballot issue. And it's great to see an articulate, well-informed & passionate counselor on staff at TMC.

I don't have so many questions, though, and I've acknowledged that too much refined & liquid sugar is a health problem in much of our country. Rather, our area of disagreement appears to be whether this proposed tax is reasonable, desirable or would be effective in achieving your stated goals.

You & many of the other proponents repeat the concern that both kids & parents just can't resist the marketing of the beverage industry. I still have more faith in the ability of those same kids & parents to make good decisions, especially as your information and concerns are more fully heard.

Maybe I'm misinformed, but at this point I still believe that most kids & parents in our valley already realize that neither 6 glazed donuts, nor a 32-oz. Gatorade, are aspects of good nutrition.

October 14, 2013
This is in response to prettyplease,

I’m not sure if you read the response Ms. Taddonio wrote to you in a previous statement,

“I am the Wellness Counselor at TMC where I counsel the 463 patients on our heart disease and diabetic registry.

Thank you for your concern, Bridget”

I believe it rings true for your current declaration, “In our a small town maybe we should count the diabetics and build a program to help them, it would be most health and cost effective”

Seems as though such a program already exists; The Telluride Medical Center has a diabetic and heart disease registry consisting of 463 patients of which Ms. Taddonio, as the Wellness Counselor, looks after.

Many of those patients don’t know the rules of healthy eating. This rings true not only for the patients on the TMC’s heart disease and diabetic registry, but for other parents around town. They pass on poor habits to their children, not because they are bad parents, but because they never received proper health education. Ms. Taddonio is fighting for Proposition 2a because she, more than anyone, sees the ill effects of poor health education.

Proposition 2a is more than just encouraging healthier drink choices. It is about creating a funding stream that will pay for the health education of local kids. While I agree that parents should teach their children these things, sometimes they don’t know the facts or can’t afford to enroll them in activities. These kids will learn healthy living is about more than not consuming soda. Programs like the Grow Dome teach kids what healthy food is. The scholarships they receive (currently from the PEP grant and hopefully from Proposition 2a) to play say flag-football, provide an opportunity to go out and get the recommended 60 minutes of activity while learning how to work in a team, maybe meet a new friend and build confidence.

In my opinion, Proposition 2a delivers more than health benefits. It’s about building strong, healthy, confident children in our community who grow up to be responsible adults. So prettyplease, as a concerned citizen of this community, what is more important to you: healthy children or cheap soda?

P.S. Judging from your posts on other commnetary it seems you have some misinformation on what is being taxed. For clarity, sugary sweetened beverages such as regular soda, energy drinks, sports drinks and packaged sweetened teas and coffees will be taxed under Proposition 2a. EXEMPTIONS from this tax (meaning items that will NOT be taxed)include, baby formula, 100% fruit juices, and milks.