With soda taxes proving to be widely unpopular, activists are looking at new strategies to drive up regulations on Americans’ chosen beverages. Today, National Journal reports on a new study funded by the food activist piggy bank, the $8-billion Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which claims that soda taxes won’t cost jobs. And in California, land of warning labels on everything courtesy of the overbroad, misguided Proposition 65, a would-be soda taxer has decided to propose additional warning labels on soft drinks.
The study is little more than big-government agitprop. Even taking its results at face value, the study itself claims private-sector jobs would be lost and government jobs would be gained. There’s a reason New York State’s 2010 soda tax was backed by the state’s public sector unions and hospital trade association, which spent millions lobbying for it: They needed extra cash during a budget crunch. Activists won’t give up their efforts for a government cash grab, even though liberal areas like Richmond, California and Telluride, Colorado are dismissing soda taxes by two-to-one margins or more.
Meanwhile in California — land of the dubious “health” initiative — State Sen. Bill Monning has moved on from trying to tax soda to trying to scare people about it. Monning’s new measure, Senate Bill 1000, would place a warning label on any soft drink that contains 75 or more calories per 12 ounces.
Californians already suffer from “warning fatigue” because of the labels mandated by Proposition 65 that claim that all kinds of products, from fishing rods to cars to Christmas lights, contain allegedly cancer-causing chemicals. There’s no reason to believe that one more warning will have a meaningful effect on obesity rates, and Monning’s boneheaded proposal would set a dangerous precedent. Soft drinks provide only seven percent of Americans’ daily caloric intake: Will California require warning labels on the food products that provide the other 93 percent? We’re noticing that activists are starting to line up pizza to be the next food choice victim; will pizza parties in the Golden State have to come with liability waivers in triplicate?
We hope California lawmakers will set Monning’s proposal aside, as they did his previous tax proposal. People need to know that the balance of calories consumed versus calories burned (for exercise and daily activity) determines weight gain and loss, not whether activist-approved or activist-hated products are consumed. Sound policy would emphasize balance, not particular foods or beverages.