Soda Tax Efforts
In 2009, Governor Paterson proposed an 18% tax on sodas and sugary drinks with less than 70% juice, but he was unable to get the support he needed in the State Legislature to get his proposal enacted. Paterson attempted the tax again in 2010 with a somewhat different approach, but the result was the same. Paterson seemed to be searching for revenue and chose soda as a convenient "sin tax" target.
Paterson is likely the most progressive Governor in the history of our state, but he seems to be willing to ask the poor to fund his budget gap because the gap is so large. A soda tax would take a far larger share of income from poor and low income New Yorkers than from those more fortunate. It is a classic regressive tax, and unlike cigarette taxes, it cannot successfully be defended on the basis of a claim that soda consumption is uniquely dangerous or unhealthy.The current Bloomberg effort is not designed to create revenue but rather to reduce obesity and calorie consumption.
As we stated in 2010:
Soda is singled out for taxation on the basis of its contribution to obesity, but candy bars, cakes, cookies, pies, and ice cream would not be affected. Can anyone argue that we should encourage New Yorkers to eat more candy bars and ice cream but drink less non-diet soda as our strategy for reducing obesity in New York? Even amongst drinks, soda is not the worst offender. Soda and orange juice have approximately the same amount of sugar. Grape juice has 70% more sugar than soda. If it is sugar consumption which we want to reduce, we should tax grape juice as well as candy bars and ice cream before we go after soda.Now, the inconsistency and flaws related to targeting soda have returned in the Bloomberg proposal to limit the size of sugary drinks sold to the public by certain establishments.
Bloomberg Attempts to Ban Some Sales of Large Sodas
We have complimented the Mayor on his health initiatives, and we continue to see his interest in improving health statistics as genuine. But, his most recent health initiative fails the common-sense test of whether the goal and the initiative match. Bloomberg's proposal would ban the serving of any sugary sodas (but not fruit juice, milk, and other sugary beverages) of more than 16 ounces at our city's restaurants, bodegas, and other establishments. There would be no ban on serving multiple 16 ounce sugary drinks to the same person.
Not only does the ban miss 7-Eleven, Duane Reade, and Rite Aid, it misses grape juice, orange juice, and milk. It misses milk shakes, Jamba Juice, and smoothie shops. It misses donuts, ice cream, pies, cakes, candy bars, and ICEE's. It is soda-centric instead of calorie-centric or health-centric.
Instead of banning large drinks, Bloomberg should encourage education and knowledge as he did with calorie counts at restaurants. Ultimately, the public will make its choices. He can help the public make better choices by providing information and support.
The experience of Prohibition tells us how much the public will resist bans. Moreover, Bloomberg's approach will send consumers to 7-Eleven and away from other establishments.
So, Bloomberg is wrong on this one, but he should continue to advocate for better nutrition for New Yorkers (and he should stop his advocacy of the white supremacist policing strategy that has dominated his time as Mayor).