Think the chances of a federal tax on soft drinks are slim? By many accounts, you're right. But that hasn’t stopped our dietary overlords from gearing up for a second push. Yesterday, William Dietz of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spoke at a forum to present the idea as one of many to combat childhood obesity. Writing this week in Health Affairs (a journal supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), Dietz and CDC chief Thomas Frieden lay out a smorgasbord of heavy-handed regulations to fight your flab, including:
a penny-per-ounce soft drink tax;
requiring vending machines to replace snacks with “healthier choices”; and
counteradvertising—such as NYC’s gross-out anti-soda ads
Frieden and Dietz call a soft drink tax “the single-most effective measure to reverse the obesity epidemic.” This is no surprise coming from Frieden, who honed his naysaying skills as New York City’s health czar. Frieden hasn't been moved by academic research that rejects the notion that soft drinks are uniquely responsible for weight gain and casts doubt on the effectiveness of such a tax. He's moving forward swiftly and resolutely—in the wrong direction.
And it’s not just federal government activists leading the way. Soft drink taxes have gained ground in state legislatures too. And this week, Philadelphia's mayor is expected to propose a city-wide tax on sugared beverages.
We’ll keep track of—and continue to oppose—these renewed efforts by the pop cops. Stay tuned.