Last week, the Center for Science in the Public Interest renewed its call for a soda tax to be part of the fiscal cliff deal. This is a misguided approach for several reasons. As we’ve mentioned before, science supports the fact that obesity is not uniquely caused by any single food or beverage. The government’s own data shows that sugar-sweetened beverages contribute about 7 percent of calories in the average American’s diet – meaning 93 percent come from other sources. And we’ve documented numerous examples of this approach not having the intended effect. But don’t merely take our word for it.
In an article on MSN Money, Jonathan Berr discusses the proposal and the potential impact it would have. After arguing what he sees as the pros and cons of such a strategy, Berr concludes:
Making it more expensive for people to get their caloric fixes won't make them thinner, but it will make them poorer. People, including this writer, become overweight and stay that way for many reasons, ranging from the genetic to the sociological. Declaring "war" on some foods and not others is bad science and even worse public policy.
The fact is, we can’t tax our way to better health. Nor should we. We need real action and a comprehensive approach to addressing the complex problem of obesity. Singling out one product is unwarranted, unproductive and does nothing to teach consumers about moderation and the importance of balancing calories in with calories out.
Moreover, our nation’s deficit problems were not created by one industry alone and will not be solved by making a scapegoat out of the products we manufacture. Our industry has stepped up to do its part. In support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, we launched our Clear on Calories initiative, placing calorie labels on the front of every bottle, can and pack we produce. And working together with President Clinton on our national School Beverage Guidelines, we voluntary removed full-calorie sodas from all schools and replaced them with more lower-calorie, smaller-portion options – driving a 90% reduction in beverage calories shipped to schools. These initiatives will have a positive and lasting effect for generations to come.
Be it obesity or fiscal issues, we simply must work together to address our nation’s toughest challenges.