As expected, the new year brought a new push from do-gooder public health activists intent on taxing soft drinks. In Oregon, advocates proposed a ballot initiative to place a penny-per-ounce wholesale tax on sugary soft drinks. A Portland physician modeled the measure after a 2009 proposal by Kelly “Twinkie Tax” Brownell from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, which endorsed the tax as a way to combat childhood obesity.
However, The Oregonian – the largest paper in the state – is skeptical that the tax could slim down residents, and an NPR food blogger also questions the real-world effects of such a tax. The skeptics certainly seem to have it right: A recent study found that a nationwide penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would only reduce consumption by just nine calories per day, and according to the National Cancer Institute only six percent of the average person’s daily calories come from sugar-sweetened beverages.
The lack of concrete evidence in favor of the tax – and the recent failure of similar legislation to pass in California, Illinois, Philadelphia, and Rhode Island, to name a few – should be a clear signal for the food police and lawmakers to reassess the tax’s merits instead of listening to outdated advice.