Hardly a week goes by without a public official citing overweight and obesity as the reason to pursue an expensive new public policy. Our industry knows this all too well. In just the past few months, we’ve seen attempts to ban large soft drinks in New York City, proposals to cut soda and sugary or salty foods from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, and new legislation to tax sweetened beverages in states like California.
The debate is focused on what is commonly referred to today as Body Mass Index (BMI) and is used broadly to categorize underweight, healthy weight, overweight and obese.
While it might be entertaining to see a politician knock on the door of a 5’ 4” woman who weighs 150 pounds and inform her she’s not ideal based on government standards, the reality is that public policies aimed at pushing Americans into an ideal weight are doomed to fail.
For this, and other common-sense reasons, the Los Angeles Daily News editorialized against a proposed statewide tax on sweetened beverages in California aimed at reducing obesity. The editorial describes the beverage tax as “the latest fad in weight management.”
Indeed, 13 states around the country this year have toyed with the fad of soft drink taxes as a remedy for high BMIs. However, using taxes and regulations to influence consumption is a complicated undertaking with no proven outcomes.