With a judge having invalidated New York City’s soda ban, the anti-food-first fat-fighting movement is scrambling for new answers to the problem. Typically, the New York Times editorial board is there with a “solution”: “Push [New York State] Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature to impose a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks.” A shame really, since the Times rightly concurred that Judge Milton Tingling was correct in ruling that the soda ban was “arbitrary and capricious” and wrote that the ban was “was ill conceived and poorly constructed from the start.”
The fallacy of soda taxes as a false obesity control middle ground is comprehensively refuted in CCF’s new report released today, The Case Against Regulating or Taxing Soda. In it, we examine the evidence showing that soda taxes do not reduce calorie consumption — precisely because in their own way, soda taxes themselves are arbitrary and capricious. (Fruit juice has as many calories as soda.) We show that the scientific evidence independently linking soda consumption with obesity is weak, and we reveal that even the staunchest supporters of soda taxes acknowledge that soda taxes fall on the poor the hardest.
And given those three crippling problems, it’s no surprise that soda taxes are woefully unpopular. Without promises — because you can always trust politicians’ promises on taxes — they attract 60 percent opposition nationally and have gone down by similar margins in usually tax-friendly liberal jurisdictions like Washington State and two California cities.
In the end, the problems with singling out soda, whether for regulation or punitive taxation, should leave no viable conclusion other than this:
The complexity of the obesity problem demands proven and comprehensive policy solutions, not dubious and discriminatory ones. Legislators owe their constituents policies that do not put constituents’ money, jobs, and businesses on the line.