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State should ban stamps for sodas

Last month, the City of New York and New York state asked the federal government for permission to bar food stamp recipients from buying sodas with program dollars for two years. Should Mississippi, the fattest state in the Union, follow suit?

The decision in New York was inspired by research showing that obesity-related illnesses cost state nearly $8 billion a year in medical costs, or $770 per household, which residents paid for through taxes. New York’s population is around 19 million.

Mississippi, which has a population less than 3,000,000, spent $800 million in 2008 for healthcare costs directly related to obesity, according to Dr. John Hall, associate vice chancellor for University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Citing the Centers for Disease Control, Hall also said that if we don’t reverse current healthcare trends, by 2018, Mississippi will be spending $3.4 billion a year for healthcare costs.

The federal food stamp program already prohibits benefits from being used for cigarettes, beer, wine, liquor or prepared foods. Why not take it a step further?

Opponents of the program say the soda-purchasing ban would be just another instance of government intrusion and erosion of personal freedoms. Food stamp users ought to be able to buy what they want, they say. The restriction is anti-American and anti-capitalist!

But isn’t the food stamp program, not to mention welfare in general, socialist in concept? It’s a program that redistributes the wealth. If practices allowed within that program are directly saddling program-funders (tax payers) with extra costs (medical in natural), why shouldn’t the rules be changed? Reducing taxes to tax payers is as American as you can get.

Begun in 1964 and overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the food stamp program was created to help struggling Americans put food — also known as nutrition — on their tables in difficult times.

There is no legitimate health benefit of corn syrup consumption. But there are plenty of negative health effects that can result from excessive amounts of it. If a person is so needy that he or she has to ask for a hand-out, should Coca-Cola really be on the menu?

At the state level, Mississippians pay one-fourth of the tab (in a 3-to-1, federal-state match) for their own Medicaid recipients — many of whom are struggling with obesity. Obesity is the No. 1 cause for diabetes and a major cause of kidney disease and cancers, not to mention heart disease.

Maybe Mississippi ought to join New York.

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