Lawmakers from the (not-so) Golden State want to crack down on a supposed menace to society: people drinking soda. And they’re considering five measures ranging from fines to noncompliance to new taxes.
The Nanny State of California—which currently has some of the highest tax rates in the nation—now may slap an additional tax on drinks with added sugar, such as soda or fruit juice. Ironically, such a tax will fall on low-income Californians the hardest. And the “public health” justification for the tax—to discourage people from consuming calorie-containing drinks—can easily be used to justify taxes on pizza, chips, and cookies next. (The theory that the government can tax people into losing weight is completely bogus—unless, perhaps, the government is run like Venezuela or North Korea.)
Nor will caps on soda sizes work. When New York City tried to pass a similar ban on drinks larger that 16-ounces, a UC San Diego study showed that people were more likely to buy more soda when they were constricted to smaller sizes.
As for warning labels on soda? A 2016 Harvard study found when warnings are posted too freely, it lessens the importance of a warning in the first place. A warning on a soda be worse than useless and in effect would be crying wolf. The FDA scrutinized California last year for its “misleading” coffee warnings. And San Francisco’s attempt to put warnings on soda was struck down by a federal court recently on free speech grounds.
The studies all agree that the best choice is to have consumer choice. Humans are creatures of habit and rarely change. Eating healthy is not bad, but taking away choices are. If the California legislature really wanted people to eat healthier, maybe it should start by repealing the 33% tax on fruit bought out of a vending machine.