In a February 12 New York Times article, food writer Mark Bittman cites our Senior Research Analyst on the foolishness of soda taxes in America’s obesity battles. Predictably, “Twinkie Tax” proponent Kelly Brownell argues that “healthy food is too expensive and unhealthy food is too cheap.” A soda tax, claims Brownell, will discourage excessive consumption and help reduce obesity. Kudos to the Times for giving us a crack at busting Brownell’s mythology.
Calories are calories, we told Bittman, no matter where they come from:

Soda has calories, and food with calories causes people to put on weight when consumed in excess…But there is no unique link between soda and obesity.

Leaving aside the argument over governments’ right to dictate personal choices, taxing sodas is not likely to reduce obesity. The main driver of high obesity rates is a lack of physical activity. As long as people don’t get enough exercise, excess calories – no matter what the source – will keep Americans putting on extra pounds.