February 16, 2010

Should sugar drinks be taxed? And hamburgers?

Correlation between smoking and lung cancer in...Image via Wikipedia

The New York Times takes a thoughtful look at the soda industry and obesity. The questions are should Coke and Pepsi drinks be taxed to 1) reduce obesity and 2) raise public money to fund anti-obesity programs?

I believe those taxes don't go far enough. Let's remove all government subsidies for beef and tax hamburgers as well.

What I find interesting is how the similar this battle is and the tobacco wars fought for 50 years. Remember the tobacco industry said there was no "direct" correlation between tobacco use and cancer. Then they said you can't change behavior with taxes. Then they said government shouldn't be in the business of dictating American behavior. All of these arguments were designed for just one thing: saving Philip Morris's profits.

Dr. Frieden, who promoted a soda tax when he was a health commissioner, sees further parallels between soda and tobacco: “There are aspects of the food industry that are reminiscent of tobacco — the sowing of doubt where there’s no reasonable doubt, funding of front groups, use of so-called experts, claims that new products which are safer for consumers are available, and the claim that they are not marketing to children.”
...In their critics’ eyes, producers of sugar-sweetened drinks are acting a lot like the tobacco industry of old: marketing heavily to children, claiming their products are healthy or at worst benign, and lobbying to prevent change. The industry says there are critical differences: in moderate quantities soda isn’t harmful, nor is it addictive.
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