A research subsidiary of secretive Swiss bank Credit Suisse has released a new report calling for sugar taxes, and it’s a doozy. The Atlantic summarizes the report, showing scary charts that indicate that everybody’s eating and drinking white powdery substance and about to die unless they are taxed into submission.
But there is no evidence that the scary charts actually mean that sugar is an “addictive substance” that must be taxed. In the United States, the evidence suggests that sugar consumption has declined by six teaspoons per day since 2000, no taxes required. And on the matter of calorie consumption American kids have cut between 70 and 150 calories over the same period.
As for the preferred remedy, taxing foods and beverages with sugar isn’t going to work at reducing obesity. The most common proposal, the soda tax, has very little evidentiary support: A recent commentary by Emory University, Yale University, and University of Washington researchers in the Centers for Disease Control’s in-house policy journal even warned, “Evidence suggests caution in enacting sugar-sweetened beverage taxation legislation with a core purpose of obesity reduction.” And taxes on foods don’t have a good record of fat-fighting success: Denmark’s saturated fat tax was so impossible to administer and so despised that it was repealed a year after enactment. (Now the Danes are considering repealing a longer-standing soda tax as well.)
The public doesn’t buy the tax-and-ban remedy, though. Recent polling has showed soda taxes opposed by wide margins, with roughly 60 percent of Americans opposed. When residents of two California cities voted on soda taxes last November, they rejected them by two-to-one and three-to-one margins respectively. While elitists like a Duke University academic with a weight problem and a bank linked to Nazi gold herald restrictions on consumer choices, the people say no. And until the fat-fighting community decides to empower people’s personal responsibility rather than taking away choices, they will continue to fail.