Yesterday, an American Beverage Association senior vice president and Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest debated Jacobson's proposed beverage tax to pay for health care reform. The debate took place on LA's NPR station.
Jacobson got the first word and starts by saying soft drinks are "the only food or beverage demonstrated to cause weight gain and obesity." You may want to read that again because your eyes aren't fooling you.
When Jacobson was challenged for essentially saying "soft drinks were the only cause of obesity," he disputed that characterization of his comments. He again reiterated that what he said was "the only food or beverage demonstrated to cause weight gain or obesity."
Wow that's some serious spin. And that's a pretty outrageous statement - largely because it is blatantly inaccurate. Common sense tells you that it's not true. And science tells you that it's not true.
A few points of fact for Mr. Jacobson and his gang:
• A recent NIH-funded study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that calories from all foods count when losing weight. This study reinforced a compendium of research showing that balancing calories consumed with calories burned is the key to weight maintenance.
• Common sense kicks in here as well. There are calories in nearly all foods. People know that and don't necessarily need a Harvard study to figure that one out. And people understand that the vast majority of their calories come from other foods than soft drinks. There isn't one demonstrated cause to weight gain. Silliness.
• As for soft drinks being a unique contributor to obesity - well, the data says otherwise. Soft drink sales have declined annually since 2000, while childhood and adult obesity have risen during this same period. Sorry, Michael, you're argument just doesn't add up.
Well, as the saying goes: It stinks when the facts get in the way of a good story.
What's most disappointing is that Michael and his colleagues continue to mislead and spin the American public with phony data and inaccurate statements -- simply to push their cause, get themselves more media attention, and use that attention to raise more money for their organization. So they have a financial stake in this debate, too. And they pursue their stake at the expense of consumers through higher taxes and greater government intervention into your personal decisions. We're at least upfront about who we are: our industry makes beverages. Some have calories, some have fewer and some have zero. And we are upfront that we don't want our products, or our loyal consumers, taxed. It's bad for our consumers' pocketbooks and it's bad for our business and employees.
More importantly, though, taxes are just the wrong public policy for a complex problem like obesity. Taxes won't make an ounce of difference. Taxes are just a money grab.