Is a soda tax next?

New York City may be leading the way for another health initiative, this time by imposing a hefty tax on drinks containing sugar. Advocates of the proposal point to a new study authored by New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dan Frieden and Kelly Brownell of Yale that claims a sugared-drink tax of a penny per ounce could reduce consumption by more than 10 percent and raise $1.2 billion a year in New York State alone. ThatâÄôs because a penny per ounce amounts to nearly $3.00 per 24-pack. The cityâÄôs strapped coffers make the prospect of increased tax revenues even more attractive, though advocates are looking to use revenues to fund new health programming and obesity reduction among children. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the tax âÄúis just not one that weâÄôre going to be pursuing,âÄù but Governor David Paterson had earlier called for an 18% soda tax, before backing off the plan among heavy outcry. New York City was the first to ban trans fats in 2006 and now has the highest cigarette prices in the nation. If New York indeed imposes the soda tax, it is likely that Minneapolis/St. Paul, progressive bulwark of the north, would look into the move if âÄúsuccessful.âÄù Our own city councils have trans fat ban ordinances currently in limbo. There is nothing wrong with educating people about the harmful effects of ingesting too many sugars and fats. Indeed, if the Federal study released Monday pinning 20% of the nationâÄôs youth as obese is any indicator, something needs to be done about diet and exercise. The quintessential question here is who needs to do the âÄòdoingâÄô? For some reason, parents continue to allow âÄòbasket of friesâÄô to qualify as a legitimate menu option at public schools across the country. What more, rather than hitting parents where it hurts âÄì the pocketbook âÄì why donâÄôt governments air PSAâÄôs that say âÄúgood parents donâÄôt serve pop at dinner.âÄù Instead, revenue-hungry bureaucrats make arguments like FriedenâÄôs, âÄúIt is difficult to imagine producing behavior change of this magnitude through education alone, even if government devoted massive resources to the task;âĦonly heftier taxes will significantly reduce consumption.âÄù And so continues the dangerous cycle these health fascists love to force us to ride. What will happen when the increased cigarette taxes for SCHIP, the Federal childrensâÄô health insurance program runs out of revenue because smokers can no longer afford to smoke? Will children quit requiring insurance? No, the tax burden will only be redirected. Most likely, the âÄòsin taxâÄô vacuum left behind suggests a new behavior will develop into âÄòsin.âÄô Perhaps drinking soda. These are no miracle taxes. The sugar-drink tax, like the cigarette tax is regressive. That means its burden falls disproportionately upon the poor. What more, the soda tax, like most taxes, are bad for business. If the smoking taxes work, tobacco shops everywhere that will close their doors. TheyâÄôre good for the black market and crime, though. A booming cigarette bootleg industry is now popping up around New York. Frieden and others would tax unhealthy behavior to death, and cram down our throats the notion that exorbitant taxes are nothing less than charity. Take this quote from Commissioner Frieden to New York smokers: âÄúNow is the time to quitâĦSmoking is hurting your health and your wallet. For the many New Yorkers looking to save money during these tough times, this is a great way to do it. You will feel better, your families will be safer, and you will save thousands of dollars.âÄù Yes, they would save thousands, because Frieden and the other health nuts taxed cigarettes to the moon. NYC effectively beat smokers into submission, then Frieden summons the audacity to reprimand some for continuing to enjoy a freedom he deems personally unwholesome. Rather than effectively taxing our rights away in a vicious cycle, why not educate parents and kids about the dangers of too much sugar, fat, and too little exercise. If behavior doesnâÄôt change with those dangers in mind, health must not be a relevant concern. I understand that may offend Frieden, but it would probably be healthy for him to just live with it.