By: J. Justin Wilson
Newspaper: Reno Gazette Journal

We all know Nevada’s economy is struggling: The state’s unemployment rate has remained high at 9.8 percent. With sales and property tax receipts down from the heyday before the recession when tourism was strong, state politicians are looking for any way they can to raise more money from struggling residents of the Silver State.

Enter Assemblyman Harvey Munford, who recently proposed a 5-cent extra tax — he calls it a “fee,” naturally — on fast-food meals more than 500 calories. He said the tax will fight obesity, but there is strong evidence that it will do no such thing.

The tax is based on a false premise. Fast food doesn’t make people fat any more than mom’s meatloaf or dad’s barbecue ribs. Consuming more calories than people burn — wherever they come from — is the proven cause of obesity. Attacking certain restaurant meals because they don’t come on a white tablecloth with a tax is arbitrary and prejudiced against simple pleasures.

Consider that the average adult should maintain weight at about 2,000 calories a day. So, even eating three 600-calories fast-food meals — all of which would be taxed under Munford’s plan — this average adult would both be losing weight and being hit by the tax man.

The only place this tax changes is in Carson City, where tax collectors’ cash registers will go “ka-ching.” There is no way that a tax of this nature will deter consumers from eating what they want, making the tax an extra cost to consumers rather than a fat-fighting weapon.

Evidence suggests that it will be the poor who bear most of the burden. If that isn’t enough, there’s reason to believe that Munford’s proposal is only the beginning of intrusion into Nevadans’ food choices. A confidential document written by Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, the strategic command center for the movement to tax or ban so-called “bad” foods, proposes that “the less-controversial (i.e. non-tax) options be pursued ?rst in an effort to ‘soften the ground’ for taxes.”

So, pushing the “fee” could be a first step to even higher taxes on soft drinks and other foods. Activists from the Rudd Center and other food police are currently developing a hypothesis to ram those regulations down our throats. They say foods are addictive, just like drugs.

Scientists without a regulatory agenda disagree. Researchers from Cambridge University recently found that “criteria for substance dependence translate poorly to food-related behaviors.” Additionally, they criticized activists who want to use this theory as grounds to regulate foods and beverages.

The only beneficiaries from the proposed Nevada “fee” on fast food are revenue-starved politicians and those who want to control everything we eat. Politicians should learn to skip the taxes and trim their own appetites for spending.