This year’s state legislative season has been brutal for the activists trying to put punitive taxes on sodas and other soft drinks. Despite some efforts to resurrect California Senate Bill 622, it died at the end of January as the state legislature’s “crossover deadline” passed.
It’s no surprise that legislators, even in an arch-blue state like California, aren’t willing to follow the activists off the political cliff. Polling overwhelmingly shows that citizens do not want to go on the tax-code diet, and the scientific evidence consistently finds that a soft drink tax won’t have a meaningful effect on obesity rates.
So activists are moving to the last refuge of political scoundrels—San Francisco—for one more attempt to go after fizzy drinks. The city council will consider whether to refer a $2.56-per-gallon tax on sodas and similar beverages to the November 2014 election ballot. If history is any guide, even Bay Area residents are skeptical of these regressive, costly taxes: Richmond, a city on the east side of San Francisco Bay, rejected a tax half that severe by a two-to-one margin.
We aren’t expecting this year’s result to be any different. It’s time for activists to stop trying to push discriminatory, limited punishments on food choices and provide the education and lifestyle guidance that are actually showing real-world promise in turning the obesity tide.