A Governor’s Fizzy Logic

Politicians in New York are getting increasingly creative in finding ways to increase their budget (see, for example, New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s plastic bag tax). But we can’t say the same thing about Governor David Paterson’s “obesity tax” on non-diet soda. A shallow, deeply misplaced ploy, this initiative would burden those with lower incomes most, while proving as feckless and random as a “brunette tax” on cowboy hats. As we’re telling the media today, “Not only is soda being unfairly singled out in Paterson’s tax plan, but a tax on non-diet soda will do nothing to reduce obesity rates.” Our report, “ Why Soda Bans Don’t Fight Childhood Obesity,” shows that soda consumption actually has no measurable affect on childhood obesity.
Consider the mounting scientific evidence that doesn’t square with Paterson’s reasoning. In 2004, Harvard researchers wrote that “[T]he inclusion of sugar-sweetened beverages in the snack food category did not meaningfully change the results.” And a 2005 study published in the journal Risk Analysis found no relationship between regular carbonated soft drink consumption and body-mass index.

Americans were consuming soda decades before Governor Paterson was born, without a so-called “obesity epidemic.” It’s not a mystery what has changed: We move less. Paterson’s budget plan distracts from the factors that are proven to correlate with obesity — namely, a national epidemic of physical inactivity.

Researchers writing in the British medical journal The Lancet, for example, found that among adolescent girls, “the drastic decline in habitual activity during adolescence might be a major factor in the doubling of the rate of obesity…in the past two decades, since no concomitant increase in energy intake was apparent.”

And just two weeks ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 43 percent of Americans get less exercise than the federal government will recommend in the year 2010.

Governor Paterson has a choice. He can be a leader in fighting obesity, by concentrating on getting New Yorkers moving. Or he can be inducted into his state’s Hall of Shame of politicians who would rather chip away at their freedoms.

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