The elected leaders in Maine imposed a massive tax hike on soft drinks and other beverages. Mainers repealed it last November through a "people's veto" by nearly a two-to-one margin.
New York's governor proposed a tax hike on soft drinks and other beverages in December. It received such a backlash from New Yorkers that the governor and legislative leaders held a news conference to pull back the proposal just months later.
Now, the pro-tax activists are trying to persuade federal lawmakers to raise taxes on soft drinks and other beverages. You may have read about the Senate Finance Committee roundtable today that is looking at ways to finance health care reform.
Well, we hope the federal leaders don't take the bait.
Because taxes won't make a dent in addressing health care. And it makes no sense singling out one set of products for taxation when obesity is such a complex problem with a multitude of contributors. In fact, the data undermines the critics' entire premise: soft drinks sales have declined annually since 2000, while obesity rates have risen throughout this decade.
Look, the beverage industry knows that childhood obesity is a serious problem. And it's going to take comprehensive and thoughtful solutions to reduce it and prevent it.
This is why our industry stepped up years ago with the national School Beverage Guidelines that we developed with the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association through their Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
Through the guidelines, our industry is taking all full-calorie soft drinks out of school. And we're capping calories and portion-sizes on the beverages that remain. A pretty tough policy with real financial consequences for our industry, but the right thing to do.
Why? Because schools are unique places - places of education. It is here that students should learn the one full-proof equation for maintaining a healthy weight: balance calories consumed from all foods with calories burned through exercise. And we believed it was important that the beverages we sell in schools help reinforce calorie balance. We also know that schools are places where parents aren’t around to watch what their kids eat.
And our efforts are delivering results. In two years, we've already cut calories by 58 percent in schools, and nearly 80 percent of schools under contract are already in compliance.
Lawmakers need to focus on more common sense solutions like this. Solutions that do the hard work of teaching our children how to balance calories and, by doing so, give them the skills to maintain a healthy weight throughout their lifetime.
A tax won't teach children any skills, nor will it have a lasting, meaningful impact on reducing childhood obesity. A tax is just the wrong public policy for such a complex problem.
Plus, people believe government is overreaching when it uses the tax code to tell people what to eat or how to feed their children. That's not government's role.
So where do things stand? There are already two strikes on the beverage tax idea in the past six months. We hope that Congress makes this strike three.
While that will do right by families and their children, it unfortunately won't eliminate the food police like CSPI, the Rudd Center or others who make their living - literally, their income - by bashing foods and beverages. There's too much money at stake for them to take a seat after striking out.... or at least working towards more reasonable solutions that would actually make a difference. Just keep their self-interested motives in mind, too, as you consider these tax proposals.