Soft Drink Tax Slowly Gains Momentum

Thinking about a frosty soft drink to quench that summer thirst? Enjoy it now, because one day it might have an added tax on it.

A large number of American Medical Association members want to raise money to fight obesity, and some think that adding a tax on soft drinks would be a dandy way to do it.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which seems to believe that one of the deadly sins is the enjoyment of eating, believes a 1 cent per-can tax could raise $1.5 billion a year.

Now a penny a drink isn’t much. But the argument sort of reminds us of a variation of the old Lay’s potato chip slogan: Bet you can’t tax just once.

Worse, governments are likely to become addicted to the soda tax just as they’ve become tobacco-tax revenue junkies. Will a shakedown much like the $246 billion tobacco settlement follow the first tax?

And that addiction makes them hypocrites as they condemn smoking even as they grow more dependent on tobacco tax revenue.

But wait: What about diet drinks, which have no sugar? Will they be taxed as well? Would a tax on sugared drinks drive people to the diet drinks? And what if we find in a few years that increased consumption of artificial sweeteners had a negative affect on public health—much like the obesity the nannies are trying to reduce?

Remember, the CSPI is one of the groups that campaigned years ago for restaurants to replace saturated fats with trans fats and is now crusading against the very thing it advocated because the group now believes trans fats are killing roughly 50,000 Americans a year.

The AMA narrowly rejected the soda tax by a vote of 244 to 242 at its Chicago convention in mid-June. But that close vote doesn’t mean soda drinkers are safe from the tax. Lawmakers will likely get the idea that by forming a coalition of half the docs and all the nannies, they can grow the coffers.

But given the undesirable choice between an obese public and an obese government, we’d choose an obese public. At least people can change their ways—if they choose to.