Did you know your soda is a public health menace?
That`s what public health activists have declared about sugar-sweetened beverages — soft drinks, fruit juice, sports drinks, and even chocolate milk — in an effort to get the government to tax them. And when you mix self-appointed food activists with revenue-starved politicians looking under couch cushions for every last nickel and dime, the result is predictably unsavory.
Food activist Kelly Brownell, inventor of the so-called “Twinkie tax,” has thrown his considerable weight around from New York to San Francisco in an effort to convince cities and states to tax sugary drinks. Just last month, California State Senator Alex Padilla indulged Brownell`s crusade by holding what amounts to a kangaroo court — a public hearing — in Los Angeles on the supposed “link” between soda and childhood obesity. Colorado`s Gov. Bill Ritter has called for a 2.9 percent tax hike on soft drinks.
The exploratory hearing in California was just a mask for a foregone conclusion. The activists` playbook is fairly straight forward: Suggest a “link” between a product and a health problem, raise taxes on the product, and hope to curb its consumption–all the while raking in revenue, which is often diverted to other programs.
But when it comes to soda, activist logic has a fatal flaw: There`s not a drop of truth to the notion that one kind of beverage, such as soda, is largely responsible for weight gain.
There is no scientific consensus that sugary drinks are a unique cause of obesity. A scientific review published last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated the evidence of 12 major studies and found virtually no association between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and children`s weight. And an October study found no association between soda consumption and youth weight gain over a 5-year period.
The notion that taxing foods will improve our health is similarly dismissed by the considerable weight of academic research. For example, one university analysis this year determined that the government would have to tax soda at a rate of 1,200 percent — effectively eliminating all soda purchases — in order to make a dent on weight.
No single food or drink is a unique cause of obesity. Calories are calories, whether they come from bread, soda, or even avocados. So if the anti-fat crusaders really want to tax obesity, they`ll have to tax overconsumption of food.
What we put in our mouths is our own business. Creating phony scientific “consensus” for the idea that soft drinks are a singular cause of obesity is the tactic for getting away from personal responsibility and nudging us toward certain culinary choices–namely, choices made by the “anti” activists.
Once food taxes start, they`ll predictably keep going up as revenue-starved politicians need their fix. Ask yourself: Do you want this food future?