Soda taxes are all the rage this year among public-health nannies, primarily thanks to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and activist Yale professor Kelly “Big Brother” Brownell. Of course, there's no solid evidence that adding “IRS” to soft drink ingredients will actually solve the obesity epidemic. And now a new study estimates that a large tax on soda would reduce the average person’s daily calorie intake by a whopping—whopping—12 calories per day, or 1.25 pounds over a year. That’s about half of one percent of a 2,000-calorie diet.
What if a major diet product was advertised: "BURN OFF 12 CALORIES A DAY! LOSE THAT 1.25 POUNDS FOR SWIMSUIT SEASON!" It would be the biggest flop in the history of dieting, and that's saying something.
Eric Finkelstein, the economist who headed up the study, speculated that soda taxes would be ineffective because consumers would simply switch to a different sweet drink with the same number of calories or make up the difference by buying cheaper, generic soda.
Regardless, let us suggest a few alternatives. Instead of imposing a punitive soda tax, here are other ways to burn 12 calories, courtesy of the calorie calculator at HealthStatus.com:
Walking up stairs for 1.3 minutes.
Brushing your teeth for 4 minutes.
And those numbers are all for a person weighing 160 pounds. For those with bigger bodies, those 12 calories can be burned off even faster.
Unfortunately none of this will be enough to sway certain "blame the food zealots":
Even so, says Dr. Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, such studies can only simulate how people might react to soda taxes. “The fact is that nobody has been able to see how people will really respond under these conditions,” he says.
This is from someone who has been waving alarmist, anti-food studies around for decades. If no one knows how people will really respond, then why are soda taxes (or "Twinkie taxes" for that matter) a good idea in the first place? We've said it before and we'll say it again: this is about raising money for bureaucrats, not fighting obesity.