“The companies who make foods and drinks have a real point. Where does this all stop? Are we going to have ‘sin’ taxes on Big Macs and Cokes?”
Those are not the words of an industry pitchman or a libertarian columnist. They are the words of Richard Atkinson, a professor of medicine and nutritional science at the University of Wisconsin and president of the American Obesity Association. “You need to be very cautious about taking away liberties of the American people,” he says. [For more on this threat to consumer freedom, read the transcript of the Center for Consumer Freedom’s appearance on CNN’s Crossfire last night.]
But in the name of combating obesity, activists and government officials are considering taxes on soft drinks and snack and restaurant foods — as well as marketing restrictions, zoning restrictions, advertising bans, and more. Trial lawyers are lining up to treat food like Big Tobacco. Longtime anti-smoking activist John Banzhaf has declared: “Tactics used against the tobacco industry very successfully… could be used against the problem of obesity,” he has said. “As we’ve done with regard to cigarettes, [we could] put a higher tax on foods… this is what we do with smoking.”
The Houston Chronicle writes in an editorial: “Government bureaucrats and some trial lawyers are talking about ways to save us from ourselves. Lawyers are discussing filing class-action suits against fast-food
restaurants and other establishments… Big Food would replace Big Tobacco as the target of these
legal eagles. Their message would be that hamburgers, pizzas and fried chicken kill just like cigarettes.
“We’re guessing we’ve only heard the first of all of this. Correcting bad eating habits is an enticing cause for politicians. And punishing offenders who push pizzas and burgers on children can mean big money to some trial lawyers. Maybe we are too skeptical, but it seems the best weapon in fighting obesity would be in every American showing a little personal responsibility… Taking charge of our personal behaviors is infinitely better than depending on government bureaucrats and avaricious lawyers.”