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The Coming Soda Tax

May 22, 2009

By David Gratzer

President Obama has tapped Dr. Thomas Frieden, the New York City health commissioner, as the new director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But even before returning to the federal government — he previously worked at the CDC — Dr. Frieden is influencing Congress. Earlier this year, he co-authored a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine that championed the idea of a soda tax.

Back in April, I predicted that cash-starved governments would consider the soda tax, arguing that Coke and Pepsi are bad for people.

A good prediction: earlier this week, the Senate Finance committee announced that it’s considering a tax on “sugar-sweetened beverages” to finance the new health-care overhaul.

Even if this Congressional proposal fizzles out, Dr. Frieden has helped shift our language. Gone is the talk of soda; instead, politicians discuss “sugar-sweetened beverages.” Slate’s William Saletan notes that this is Dr. Frieden’s biggest contribution:

Frieden is the world’s most ambitious innovator in redefining unhealthy foods as not really food. By rhetorically pushing these items out of the category of sustenance, he’s paving the way for more aggressive regulation of what you eat… I detest trans fats, soda, and excess salt. But let’s be clear about what's going on: We’re recategorizing things so we can get away with aggressively regulating them.

Regulate and, yes, tax them.

Original Source:



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