Our brawl with New York City’s dietary control freaks is drawing some serious attention. The city is spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to run anti-soft-drink subway ads depicting a soda turning into globs of fat. We’re countering with our own “Big Brother or Big Apple?” ad campaign. Yesterday, The New York Times used this fizzy fight as a lead-in to profile our fight against soda taxes in its “Letter from America” column. Writing for the Times, International Herald Tribune columnist Richard Bernstein asked us why we object to proposals from food activists, like those at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, to reduce soda consumption. We explained:
There are so many reasons. There are ideological reasons, scientific reasons, and policy reasons.
From the ideological point of view, [taxes should not] be a tool for social engineering, to change people’s behaviors.
People draw the parallel with tobacco, but there’s a huge chasm of a difference between the two. There’s an incontrovertible link between tobacco and serious diseases. Soda is one of a plethora of products that are overused by some people, but there’s nothing wrong with it per se.
There’s not a shred of evidence that shows that [a soda tax] will work. All the studies show that it will have no impact on obesity rates.
The Times noted that academic research on the ineffectiveness of a soda tax is likely our “strongest argument”:
[W]hether [taxes are] effective or not, there is something to the argument that a government-imposed penalty on Coke and Mountain Dew does represent a nanny-like intrusion.
Is there any indication that the Big Apple food police will ease up on their intrusions? Not exactly. Especially if, like Hizzoner Michael Bloomberg, they don’t practice what they preach.