U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) is again revving up her efforts to tax away consumer choice. The politician-turned-food-cop recently penned an op-ed headlined by the hyperbolic query, “Is sugar the new tobacco?”
This escalation to drug analogy and addiction rhetoric is perhaps to be expected: It’s a favorite tried-and-untrue strategy of food alarmists and fat-tax activists. Consider, for example, the Australian bestselling author of I Quit Sugar, who just recently declared the sweet substance a “seductive toxin” more addictive than cocaine and heroin. And let’s not forget New York’s food snob du jour Mark Bittman, who likened cheeseburgers to addictive narcotics in an op-ed entitled “Hooked on Meat.” (Never mind that Bittman has sold lots of cookbooks with mounds of meat-based recipes.)
These alarmists like to argue that taxes on things like fast foods and sugar are a way for the government to help us help ourselves. But reports show that trying to coerce healthy consumer choices through taxes isn’t an effective public policy: A 2012 Cornell University study found that when faced with a 10% soda tax consumers purchased fewer sugary drinks for just one month. After three to six months, they returned to their pre-tax purchasing habits.
The proposed levies on sugary foods and drinks won’t actually modify behavior or improve personal health. Instead, fear-mongering tactics—like the ludicrous drug narrative perpetually peddled by food nannies—unnecessarily seek to make certain foods or beverages more expensive. And moderate, responsible consumers are forced to foot the bill.