While learning anything, never be afraid of committing mistakes. Commit as many mistakes as you like since every unsuccessful attempt teaches you a new lesson and eventually leads you to a great triumph.#AKWords Let Them Drink Water! - By Daniel Engber

Header Ads Widget



Let Them Drink Water! - By Daniel Engber

Source of Photo: NRDC
Daniel Engber as a columnist for the online magazine Slate has written several articles published online in the same magazine. He edits for this magazine as well. He has pursued his master's degree in neuroscience and has worked in research labs at Columbia; the University of California, San Francisco; and the National Institutes of Health.

Through his article "Let Them Drink Water!" Engber tries to get the attention of the American people toward health care — the second-most-expensive war — on which the American government is spending $1 trillion. Whenever people have a discussion on the obesity problem, they come up with many proposed solutions to combat this problem. Out of many, the concept of "Fat Tax" as a resolution has become more popular across the country at the state level. Engber also asserts that a fat tax is a solution to encourage people to live healthy lives. California, for instance, has completely banned junk foods and soft drinks to plummet obesity rates among children. However, this notion of imposing a tax on overweight, soft drinks and junk foods does not sound convincing. It will be beneficial to rich people only because it will negatively "affect the nonwhite people who drink a lot of soft drinks and are most sensitive to prices". The main purpose of this writing is to inform readers about taxing soft drinks and the impact of tax on non-white Americans.

Sixty-seven years later, A.J. Carlson, a psychologist, advocated the idea of charging $20 for each pound of overweight. This is believed that this can help to control an "injurious luxury" at home, and the amount in the form of tax would be spent on the war overseas. Some people agree with Carlson that overweight people are to be charged a fee while others propose a hefty surcharge on soft drinks. Engber opines that taxing overweight can discourage people from consuming sweetened beverages and junk foods and lead them toward a healthy life. He supports his logic by citing opponents' argument that taxing cigarettes has tremendously decreased rates of smoking and death from lung cancer. It is stated that junk food and sodas are as addictive as drugs, but it seems complicated to draw a clear-cut line between foods that are drugs and delicious food that comes in the form of junk food. According to Engber, the neuro-pundits are to be asked whether soda is as addictive as tobacco. Public health experts should redefine the food and make people think that high-sugar junk food is a drug. They should tell people such sugary soda is not a beverage but a drug before adding more tax on it.

David Kessler, the head of the Food and Drug Association (FDA), explains to us what makes us fat using his jargon of cognitive neuroscience. He states that junk food activates the brain's pleasure system and alters "functional connectivity among important brain regions". Thus, certain foods laden with salt, sugar, and fat can disturb our natural inclinations and triggers mindless eating habit. He means to say junk food is "engineered to enslave us". Engber states that we are powerless to resist junk foods and/or beverages since we have been programmed to experience two forms of hunger: the first is that which makes us eat to stay alive and give us energy, and the second is hedonic hunger that gives us a kind of pleasure. Hedonic hunger triggers voluptuous nature in humans. According to Engber, manufacturers always target this nature by adding addictive chemicals, and these chemicals coax us into wanting unnecessarily more and more. These are hyper-palatable, and these are what make us fat. But the sad aspect is that when manufacturers asked about such chemicals in foods, they never accept that they design food to be highly hedonic: their products are bland and nutritious.

Engber opines that it is very ironic that those who advocate for healthy eating are also gourmands. He discusses the organic food movement which has a dogma that you can be a foodie and health-conscious (healthy) at the same time, for centuries, cuisiniers have been targeting our hedonic hunger.

Although it is argued that it is necessary to impose a fat tax to discourage unnecessary and excessive use of junk foods and sweetened beverages to make people stay healthy, it discriminates among the varieties of the gustatory experience. Everybody may not be capable to afford organic/nutritious foods. For some (non-white people in America), price matters: they tend to look for such foods that would be within their budget because these food items cost no extra charge. That means a fat tax is a sin tax because it is likely to be a burden on the poor since they are most vulnerable to unhealthy food. In the same way, diabetes and overeating could both be affected by a high tax on sugary beverages. But Engber suspects that it may not control the obesity rate as expected. Instead of decreasing the obesity problem, it will be a burden to the poor.

Engber understands that there is no point in taking "sugar-sweetened beverages" as they are not necessary for survival and suggests people should just drink water which is available at little or no cost.

Engber, at last, concludes that a call for the fat tax or taxing some addictive foods and not others is as same as the government's action of giving significantly lighter prison sentences to cocaine dealers when compared to crack dealers. This analogy is appropriate: taxing overweight seems biased. Both pomegranate juice and soda, for instance, contain enough sugar to be addictive in similar ways, but one is more associated with the white and wealthy while the other is with the poor. The same could be said about cocaine and crack dealers. He points out that the impoverished often face worse legal penalties than the rich.


1. According to Engber, what is the public's attitude toward taxing junk food and soda? How does he support this generalization?

Engber understands that people are often sceptical of the "fat fax". According to him, state-level legislation has not yet succeeded in lowering obesity rates, and efforts to expand the reach of such laws have encountered too much resistance to be put into practice.

2. Policymakers and public health experts who support taxing junk food draw an analogy between junk food and cigarettes. According to Engber, what redefinition does the analogy require?

According to Engber, the way junk food is compared to drugs is necessary for this analogy to work. It is important to emphasize that junk food can rewire the brain and become truly addictive.

3. What does Engber find “ironic” about “so many advocates for healthy eating” (10)?

Engber observes that it is ironic that many proponents of healthy eating are also "outspoken gourmands"; he argues that there is no distinction between junk food and the cuisine that "foodies" consume since both target our "pleasure-seeking, caveman selves."

4. In paragraph 10, Engber discusses the organic food movement. How does he define its “central dogma”?

The "central dogma" of the organic food movement, according to Engber, is that eating real, unprocessed foods will allow you to be a "foodie" and be healthy at the same time.

5. Engber argues that a fat tax “discriminates among the varieties of gustatory experience” (12). What does he mean? Which specific groups does he believe such a tax would affect disproportionately?

Engber means that taxing junk food will only charge some categories of "unhealthy" foods while excluding other, more costly, fancifully healthy varieties of the same foods. For instance, a juice with the same calories and sugar content sold at an organic food store would not be taxed even if a soda may be because of its artificial flavouring. He believes that the poor and people of colour would be most affected.

Purpose and Audience

1. What is Engber’s purpose? Is he writing to change his readers’ minds, to propose a course of action, to influence public policy, to inform his readers — or to provoke them? Explain.

It would appear that Engber's primary objective is to alter the readers' perspectives regarding the idea of taxing soft drinks. He doesn't think it's a bad idea to regulate chemicals or behaviours that could be dangerous, but he wants his readers to understand the class issue involved in such regulations.

2. Where does Engber think his audience stands on the issues he discusses? Does he see them as knowledgeable or uninformed? Does he think they are more likely to eat junk food or pain au levain? How can you tell?

Engber seems to think that his audience is already familiar with the "fat tax" ideas on a fundamental level, but they haven't considered the details of the idea in the same way he has. He presents the proposals he discusses with a light scepticism at the beginning of his essay, which is primarily neutral and informative. He demonstrates that he comprehends these ideas' intentions. He continues to slowly bring up issues with such solutions before beginning to discuss the issue of our food-holding double standard. He probably thinks that some of his audience members might eat "pain au levain" like he does. He seems to be writing to some of them, so he is putting a lot of emphasis on challenging the beliefs held by this group.

3. In paragraph 14, Engber notes a lack of clarity about the effects of “sin taxes” on behaviour. How does this lack of clarity strengthen his argument?

A lack of clarity about the effects of “sin taxes” on behaviour strengthens Engber's argument that such a tax might have little effect on obesity rates and public health, and serve only as a burden on the poor.

Style and Structure

1. What is the purpose of paragraphs 2 and 3? Why are they important to Engber’s argument?

The general reception of the proposals Engber discusses is shown in paragraphs 2 and 3. This helps the reader to get a sense of how big and important the ideas he writes about are.

2. In paragraph 6, Engber quotes and paraphrases from David Kessler’s The End of Overeating. Why does he do this? What is Engber’s attitude toward Kessler’s book — and toward the practice of applying neuroscience to overeating and junk food?

Engber is not of the opinion that Kessler's assertions are false; rather, Engber is of the opinion that Kessler presents his information in a flawed and constrained manner. Engber believes that this use of neuroscience is an over-sensationalization of the topic that ignores the fact that food is meant to be delicious and that there are many things that technically "rewire" our brains. He incorporates this remark as a means of introducing his discussion of the "fat tax's" class issues.

3. Where does Engber use cause-and-effect arguments? How do these arguments support his position?

In his essay "Let Them Drink Water," Daniel Engber uses cause-and-effect arguments to support his position against taxing junk food and sugary drinks. Here are some examples of where he uses these arguments:

Engber argues that a junk food tax is an overly paternalistic approach to the complex issue of health and that it would not be effective in reducing consumption. He supports this argument by factoring in the immensity of the category of food and drinks in question, along with the degree to which prices would need to be manipulated to see many individuals reducing consumption. He also argues that a soda tax would discriminate on economic grounds since rates of soft drink consumption tend to be highest in poor, non-white communities. He suggests that such a tax would create an apartheid of pleasure in which the poor must drink from the faucet while the rich enjoy super-premium fruit juice. 

In Paragraph 6, Engber quotes David Kessler's The End of Overeating to argue that sugary drinks are not the sole cause of obesity and that there are many other factors at play. He suggests that focusing solely on sugary drinks is misguided and will not solve the problem of obesity. Overall, Engber's cause-and-effect arguments support his position that taxing junk food and sugary drinks is not an effective way to combat obesity. He suggests that such measures are overly paternalistic, discriminatory, and misguided.

4. Engber ends his essay with a surprising analogy. What two things is he comparing? Is this comparison logical? What point does it make?

Engber thinks it is taxing some addictive foods but not others is the same as the government penalizing cocaine dealers more severely than crack dealers. The comparison is logical. Pomegranate juice and soda both have enough sugar to make them addictive in the same way, but the white and wealthy are more likely to drink them. Crack and cocaine could be said to be the same. He is making the point that the law frequently penalizes the poor for offences for which the wealthy are not equally punished.

Vocabulary Projects

1. Define each of the following words as it is used in this selection.

radical (1) : extreme; nontraditional
bloated (2) : excessive in size or amount
surcharge (2) : additional charge
neuropundits (5) : a person who makes authoritative comments on neurology
magisterial (6) : authoritative; domineering
jargon (6) : the language specific to a particular trade or area of expertise
concocted (6) : came up with; created
laden (6) : burdened with
circumvent (6) : bypass; go around
nefarious (6) : wicked or criminal
hedonic (7) : related to pleasure
voluptuous (8) : related to luxury or sensual pleasure
cajole (8) : to persuade with flattery
trigeminal (8) : related to the trigeminal nerve, which controls the muscles involved in chewing and connects the sensory muscles of the face to the brain
construe (9) : to interpret in a particular way
gourmands (10) : a person who enjoys eating and often eats too much
dogma (10) : a system of principles regarding behaviour or morals
brioche (10) : a light sweet yeast bread typically in the form of a small round roll
gustatory (12) : relating to taste

2. Engber ends paragraph 10 with a series of contrasting words. What are these words? What point is he trying to make here about language as it is used in the junk-food tax debate? Is it successful in making this point?

Engber describes junk food as "a drug" and "hyperpalatable." He describes healthy foods as "a treat" and "delicious" food items. Although they technically mean the same things, these adjectives have distinct connotations. He is attempting to make a point about how we treat the health benefits of these foods as though there is a significant difference, despite the fact that there isn't. He succeeds in getting the reader to understand that this language is infused with classist ideas.

3. In paragraph 12, Engber writes that a fat tax would lead to an “apartheid of pleasure.” What does the word apartheid mean? What connotations does it have? Is it an appropriate word in this context?

A policy of racial segregation known as apartheid is one in which white people are regarded as legal superiors. He is referring to the fact that such a tax would have a disproportionate impact on non-white people in the United States, which works well to support Engber's argument.

Post a Comment