The Politics (and Science) of Soda

Slate's Will Saletan describes the political "recipe" New York City's health commissioner Thomas Frieden (he who has already defeated NYC's trans fats) uses in his appeal, published New England Journal of Medicine, for a soda tax.

Saletan thinks this proposal might have legs:
"Three years ago, I thought the movement to legislate against junk food was politically futile. But that was before the successful assaults on trans fats, calorie counts, and opening fast-food restaurants. Those victories, apparently, were just the appetizers. The next course is behavior modification through taxation. And this article is the recipe."

There is really no debate that drinking soda ("pop" if you prefer) is not healthy. Humans love it, as evolutionist David Sloan Wilson explains in his book Evolution for Everyone, because we are "dancing with ghosts." Once upon a time in our evolutionary history, sugars and fats (which we need, just not in large amounts) were not readily available. Presumably, to crave them was incentive to seek them out. Now that we can have sugar and fat whenever we want, to crave them is to be "dancing with ghosts."

Meanwhile, we keep getting fatter and fatter, and spending more and more of the healthcare dollar on obesity-related medical conditions. Can a soda tax make a dent?


sasha said...

do cigarette taxes keep people from smoking? nope. will they, if we quadruple them? nope. people are always going to be addicted to things. frequently to things which are not good for them. does this mean that we shouldn't tax those things? of course not. tax them all you wish, what better way to make some money than taxing the sinners?

p.s. whoever wrote that headline stating that "obama raising cigarette taxes is proof that he is not following through with his promise to not raise taxes for people who make less than 250k, because "poor" people smoke more than "rich people" - that person who thought to think that, and then went as far as writing things down for other people to see, well, that person is a giant douche-wad and does not belong in the field of journalism.

Thomas said...

If we are going to tax sodas or sugars with the thought that such an action may curb the social costs of obesity, perhaps we should also tax politicians with the thought that such action may curb the social costs ill-conceived public policies.