Philadelphians are showing a growing unrest with Mayor Michael Nutter's proposal to tax certain sugar-sweetened beverages, further proving that a proposal to raise taxes on Philadelphians could not come at a worse time. Families are struggling through a troubled economy - one that has hit the City of Brotherly Love with an unemployment rate of more than 10 percent.
While we've heard the Mayor's elaborate justification for the tax - his claim that it will help trim the waistlines of his constituents - we know that this just a sad play by government to fill gaps in the city's budget by grabbing money from hardworking families. But don't take our word for it, have a look at the editorial in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer that shakes down this proposal for what it is.
Taxes don't make people healthier - diet and exercise do that. There are real world examples of taxes like this. Spoiler alert; they do not work. Only two states currently have excise taxes on soft drinks and other beverages like the one being proposed in Philadelphia - West Virginia and Arkansas. And both of these states rank in the top ten highest obesity rates in the country.
If we want to turn the tide on obesity, we need to look at comprehensive approaches, not sound bite solutions. In fact, America's leading beverage companies are doing their part to help combat obesity. Last week, we announced the final progress report of the School Beverage Guidelines. Our member companies reduced beverage calories shipped to schools by 88 percent. We’ve been praised for this effort, being called a standout leader in the food and beverage industry by President Bill Clinton and others (check the Worth a Watch section of our Web site). The guidelines were part of a broader effort to teach children about the importance of a balanced diet and exercise.
And our industry recently announced its Clear on Calories initiative in support of First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign to stop childhood obesity. Our member companies have pledged to mark the full amount of calories per container (up to 20 ounces) right on the front label of the product, putting important nutrition information at the fingertips of consumers at the point of purchase which will help them make the decision that is right for them. This information also will be readily available at company-controlled vending and fountain machines.
These initiatives are well thought out and meaningful. And they will have a lasting impact. Which is more than a tax could ever do.