Last week in Philadelphia, the annual conference of the American Public Health Association (APHA) included a plenary session on “Challenging the Fast Food Culture.” The Center for Consumer Freedom was there.

What emerged from the 90-minute presentation before 1,200 health professionals is that the APHA is about to label soda pop as public enemy number one. Harold Goldstein, whose California Center for Public Health Advocacy was the primary lobbying force behind a recent move to ban soft drinks in all California schools, told the assembled masses:

“People will say that this obesity epidemic is only a matter of personal responsibility. We in public health know differently.”

That’s right. The public health “community” is primed to tell us all what to eat and drink. And their model will be — what else? — the tobacco wars. Now that anti-smoking lawyer John Banzhaf has found a second career in riding the coattails of colleagues who sue restaurants (and threatening to sue school boards himself), the health bureaucrats are catching on as well.

Andrea Margolis is the legislative staffer who drafted soda-tax and soda-ban bills for California Senators Martha Escutia and Deborah Ortiz. Here’s what Margolis told APHA conventioneers:

“A few years ago, feeling sorry for the schools because of all the money they were gonna lose once we got rid of all the fast food, Harold [Goldstein] and I put on our public-health thinking caps and reflected on California’s most obvious public health success: tobacco control.

“Now, what has made California’s tobacco control efforts so successful? Taxes, of course. Make the product costly and use the money to educate and treat people. Perfect, we thought – let’s tax soda!

“…While a mystery to a liberal like me, the soda tax was perceived as so extreme that it made previous controversial proposals such as banning soda sales in schools seem quite moderate and reasonable. What emerged from all that controversy was one question which we heard repeated from constituents, legislators, and journalists alike, which was: If soda is so bad, why not just ban it from schools? So naturally, Senator Ortiz’s new version of SB1520 proposed to ban soda sales from California’s public schools.”