Food Cops Issue Arrest Warrant for Soda

Last week, we reported that President Obama had endorsed the idea of “exploring” a federal tax on soda. Yesterday, the authors of a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) happily obliged Obama’s point of view, calling for a national penny-per-ounce tax on soda. The lineup is all the usual suspects: Kelly “Twinkie Tax” Brownell, NYC health chief Thomas Farley (a noted Thomas Frieden disciple), food ninny David Ludwig, Barry “Wrong on HFCS” Popkin, and other “public health experts” (read: dietary killjoys).
This new report is full of typical drumbeats (read: drivel) from the tax-happy crowd that thinks government should help make our choices about what to eat and drink. The authors tout a national soda tax to reduce obesity and raise government revenue.
They may be right about the latter: A soda tax is a surefire way for politicians to run a “get rich quick” scheme. But as we detailed yesterday, a wealth of academic research demonstrates that a soda tax isn’t an effective tool for reducing obesity rates, in part because there’s serious doubt about whether a link exists between soda and obesity.
As we’re telling reporters:

The math presented in the report does not effectively demonstrate how their proposed tax increase would decrease obesity in society. An analysis this year concluded that, to actually make a dent in the obesity rates, Congress would need a 1,200 percent tax on soda. That means a 75 cent can of soda would be taxed $9 -a tax increase worlds apart from the penny-per-ounce excise tax suggested by the report.
"The tax code shouldn’t be a tool for social engineering." said J. Justin Wilson, Senior Research Analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom. "Nor should it be an instrument for penalizing individuals who make food choices that some people in government don’t like."

Brownell and Frieden wrote a piece for the NEJM in April making arguments that are very similar to those in this new report. But attaching a few more PhDs and MPHs to a new essay isn’t going to change the underlying reality: Soda taxes don’t work.

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