Today the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) released a confidential document co-authored by Rudd Center Public Policy Director Roberta Friedman detailing discussions between soda tax advocates during an obesity policy symposium. The document, which was published in November 2012, details the hidden agendas, double-speak, and “messaging” that has clouded the debate about soda taxes in state houses and in the media. Friedman is scheduled to testify today by phone to the House Health Care Committee in support of Vermont’s proposed bill, H.234, that would place a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

See the highlights from the document here: http://l.consumerfreedom.com/sodataxfriedmandoublespeak

Supporters like Friedman argue soda taxes that go to a prevention fund, like the proposed Vermont bill, will reduce obesity and cut medical expenses. But behind closed doors Freidman acknowledges this won’t happen given the economic concerns in states, stating that the tax collected from soda would likely “be used to fill budget deficits.” Thus, Friedman argues that some revenue could be earmarked to “involve” other special interest groups.

“Public health zealots like Roberta Friedman make one case to the public on soda taxes, while acknowledging their hidden agenda and double-speak only behind closed doors,” said J. Justin Wilson, CCF’s Senior Research Analyst. “This unearthed document highlights the manipulative strategies employed by food scolds looking to tax a product, like soda, when no evidence exists that a penny-per-ounce tax will actually curb obesity.”

Soda is not a unique contributor to obesity. In fact, federal government data shows that soft drinks only provide seven percent of a person’s daily calories. Weight gain is a function of simple mathematics: calories “in” (food) exceed calories “out” (exercise). Of course, food cops like the Rudd Center would rather concentrate their policy making efforts largely on only one side of the equation (calories in).

“Vermonters need personal responsibility, not a government diet takeover that looks to tax any food or drink bureaucrats or misguided health crusaders arbitrarily deem unhealthy,” Wilson concluded.