The hypothesis: Clever researchers have discovered that a 25-second delay at a vending machine can make the impatient opt for healthier snacks, which are delivered immediately in a pimped-out machine with a special platform that delays the drop-down of bad snacks.
How it works: Full disclosure: The vending machines are labelled as being equipped with Delays to Influence Snack Choice (DISC) so consumers are aware. Not only do consumers lose the subliminal joy of either: Being impatient as all hell and settling for the package of peanuts or; exercising the patience-is-a-virtue mantra for Doritos.
Psyched: The theory is that the longer we wait for something, the less we want it. Think of it like reverse toddler psychology. Young children are the masters at wanting what they want right this second. We, as adults, have moved beyond that with maturity and patience. We know how to get what we want without holding our breath until we turn blue: We now just do it without embarrassing ourselves.
There's a pattern here: The same thinking is in play for an increased tax on sugary drinks. A recent study from the University of Waterloo showed that a 20-per-cent tax on sugary drinks would help to save $11.5 billion on health-care spending. That's impressive, particularly as the study predicts such a tax could help to prevent 600,000 cases of obesity and 200,000 cases of Type II diabetes over the next 25 years.
Well, the French are doing it: Of course, France has embraced the tax: Who needs sugary drinks when you can live on brie and baguettes and red wine? And Mexico and Norway are onboard with it — and a few U.S. cities. The government in the Northwest Territories is looking at putting this in place by 2018.
Yeah, but: A lot of governments run into resistance when they talk of taxing sugary drinks. Sometimes it works, but mostly it really bothers people who don't want government punishing them for food choices. Is government overstepping its mandate? If I were a Coke heiress, I'd be pissed. If I were a Coke addict, I'd wind up thirsty.
Please, pass the fruit: The World Health Organization suggests taxing unhealthy foods, but also recommends subsidizing fresh fruits and vegetables — anywhere from 10 to 30 per cent. Bring it on: Who wants to pay $9 for raspberries in Whistler? Say yes to subsidies on the good stuff: Your tax dollars hard at work.
The solution: Large grocery stores should just put all the crappy food and drink into DISC vending machines. Pop, and trans-fat laden snacks and processed food that's held together with sodium — they would all be cased in machines that would force the buyer to wait to retrieve the items. Even better, a perpetual cleanup in the vending-machine aisle could be arranged: Want that six-pack of Coke? Just wait until the store staff gets this floor mopped — come back tomorrow.
Good intentions: What's next in this effort? Triple-cream brie? Processed cereal and crackers? Bread that comes from a factory? Processed meat? Or any meat that's not antibiotic-free? Sugar is bad, but what about the other bad stuff?
Come on: We're not stupid. We just eat that way sometimes. But it shouldn't permit government to penalize manufacturers, should it? What about fast-food outlets? What about pig farmers: Bye-bye bacon?
Taxing the manufacturers of sugary drinks is easy. But so is just saying no.