Gavin Newsom, the hottie mayor of San Francisco and California gubernatorial candidate, is proposing legislation to tax stores that sell soda, including grocery stores like Safeway, but excluding restaurants. (Voters need to approve a tax on individual soda sales, which is why this is sort of secondhand legislation.) Newsom is calling soda the “new tobacco.”
I’ve heard the idea of a “soda tax” floated many times before, but this is the first time any actual legislation has been on the horizon–let alone right in my backyard:
Newsom said he was particularly motivated… by Thursday’s release of a UCLA study showing a link between soda and obesity in California. Researchers found that adults who drink at least one soft drink a day are 27 percent more likely to be obese than those who don’t – and that soda consumption is fueling the state’s $41 billion annual obesity problem. The study also found that 41 percent of children and 62 percent of teens drink at least one soda daily.
“Soda is cheap, sweet and irresistibly marketed to teens,” said Susan Babey, the study’s lead author. “Not enough teens know about the health and dietary risks of drinking huge quantities of what is essentially liquid sugar.”
I’m not particularly a soda drinker or an advocate for soda, but I also don’t see how this tax will really do anything–maybe if you make soda itself a lot more expensive, it could change people’s habits, but taxing Safeway isn’t going to make them stop selling soda, and I doubt they’d raise their prices on soda in response, so what’s the point? (Also, this tax wouldn’t affect fast-food places, so wouldn’t people just go there for a quick soda fix?) The Chamber of Commerce apparently agrees:
Jim Lazarus, vice president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, said the group opposes the soda tax. “Does this mean there’s a fee on candy bars, on ice cream, on potato chips?” he asked. “Where do you draw the line?”
He added that a small fee – likely to be passed on from the retailer to the consumer – wouldn’t be enough to dramatically change people’s habits, leading him to believe it’s meant to be just another revenue source for the city.
So what do you guys think–does this all feel a little “nanny state” to you, do you think it’s a good idea, do you think it’s insulting? And where are they getting this “obesity costs California $41 billion a year” from, anyway? And Californians, given the budget crisis–what about the idea of taxing “extra” purchases like soda as a way to help dig ourselves out of the hole?
Posted by mo pie