Nanci Hellmich reports in USA Today that the Senate Finance Committee is still considering a proposal that would force soda drinkers to help pay for an overhaul of the national health care system. If you listen to to its supporters, an unpopular beverage tax hike is a no-brainer solution to America’s cash flow and public health problems since “there is robust scientific evidence” blaming soft drinks for obesity and chronic diseases. But as we’ve noted before, that evidence isn’t nearly as “robust” as Kelly Brownell and other tax-happy food activists let on. The anti-soda crowd is motivated by politics – not public health.
Tthe “evidence” offered by the anti-soda crusade – such as a debunked study tying soda to calcium depletion – has been consistently dismissed or retracted. In 2005, for example, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “Evidence for the association between sugar-sweetened drink consumption and obesity is inconclusive.” More recently, a large review last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported “virtually no association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and weight gain in children and teens.”
If nickel-and-diming soda drinkers isn’t going to help slim down America, what’s the point? Nutrition activists see soda taxes as a great way to hit two proverbial birds with one stone: A victory here would hit their sworn enemies in the soft drink business while setting a precedent for whatever ingredient or food is next on their list of edible public health demons.
Using the tax code to intrude on our personal choices isn’t going to miraculously trim inches from our waistlines, nor will it fatten the public purse. It’s time to stop moralizing consumers’ beverage choices and take Sen. Charles Grassley’s (R-Iowa) suggestion to start recognizing “sin” taxes for what they really are: a big fat nuisance.