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Tobacco wars Part II: The Fat Tax
Posted by: McQ on Monday, June 12, 2006

It ain't tobacco, but the template is the same.
Doctors will this week declare war on America's soft drinks industry by calling for a 'fat tax' to combat the nation's obesity epidemic.

Delegates at the powerful American Medical Association's annual conference will demand a levy on the sweeteners put in sugary drinks to pay for a massive public health education campaign.

They will also call for the amount of salt added to burgers and processed foods to be halved.

The moves come as U.S. doctors - like their British counterparts - are becoming increasingly alarmed at the growing number of deaths linked to obesity.

The resolution will put doctors on a collision course with Coca-Cola and Pepsi, plus the likes of McDonald's and Burger King.
Ah wonderful. Persuasion? Not when we can use the force of government. And again we see the prospect of taxation used as a social engineering tool. How unique.

There is no question that obesity is becoming a growing problem ... no pun intended. But so are a number of things which are linked to our more sedantary lifestyle (a result of the brilliant application of technology to everyday living).

Take heart disease, for instance. What's next, a walking tax? If you don't walk 10 miles a week as recommended by your doctor, a higher tax bill arrives? Or if you eat more beef than chicken or fish in a week you are liable to find your taxes raised? How absurdly instrusive are we willing to allow government to become in our daily life in terms of health care?

Of course none of this would matter if someone else wasn't paying for it. Espeically if that someone isn't government.

The doctors will tell you they're doing this for your own good ... road, intentions, hell. They'll attempt to placate you by suggesting that this will increase the quality of your life and thus contribute to more happiness. Most importantly, there'll also be that great health care cost savings associated with lower weight and all the bad things it avoids. Complex situation? Not at all. Not with this simple solution.

If you don't agree, well tough, all they have to do is persuade government it's a good idea and the debate is ended, the deal is done and you're paying 5 bucks a 6 pack for Pepsi.

Of course when that happens it is time to bail on your Pepsi and McDonalds stock.

This very same technique worked very well with cigarettes. And let's face it, just like cigarettes, it is high time someone else took charge of your life if you refuse to do so, fat man.

Meanwhile politicians enamored with bridges to nowhere greedily eye the possiblity of windfall settlements and taxes. Doctors are not stupid people for the most part. Watching how the tobacco industry was righteously stripped of all it's ill-gotten loot, the lightbulb went on then and has stayed on. The AMA simply has to have the timing right and with the lure of both windfall taxes and lawsuits, rope in the politicians at the appropriate time. Hello: war, record spending and record deficits, permanent tax cuts.. the timing is perfect!

Of course once the docs and pols say that "eating a Big Mac may be hazardous to your health" (will they actually put it on the wrapper or box, do you think?), it won't take long for the cult of the victim to kick into high gear and the lawyers to set up tables in your local fast food joint. I mean let's get real, once a tax is imposed, tell me how long will it take for some lawyer enabled fat guy to claim that McDonalds made him that way because their food was just too good for him to resist eating 12 times a week?

Choice? Sure they have salads, but have you ever had a Quarter Pounder? Restraint? Hey, I have the money, someone stop me, please! Personal responsibility? What's that? Pepsi, Coke, McDonalds and Burger King have colluded to ruin my happiness and my life.

And juries will buy it. Because those big corporations have deep pockets, everyone knows that, and besides we've all heard how greedy and heartless corporations are anyway. I mean look at Enron. And don't get me started about Haliburton.



Oh, I'm sorry. I can't imagine what happend to me? I was reading this story about doctors and a fat tax and I just wandered off into the ether.

I can't believe I wrote all of that up there. That couldn't happen here. Just disregard. Disregard.

This is America for heaven sake.

Don Surber fill us in on how well taxes on sugary drinks work in reality with WV's experience:
So do soft drink taxes work? Do they make for a trim and fit society?

Well, We just happen to have a soft drinks tax in West Virginia that covers those sugary drinks.

Have had it since 1951 with the proceeds going to the WVU Medical School. And after 55 years of this nanny tax:

West Virginia ranks third in adult obesity and third in adult diabetes.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

I’m reading this as I’m greedily slurping down some of Mickey D’s finest. Ah, the irony.

You gotta love American politics.
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://
Just when I think my wife is coming around top political sanity -
She agrees we need this - and arrrrrrrhhhhhhhhhhhhh it’s ’for the children!"

Written By: looker
URL: http://
The update makes it that much sweeter.
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
11-19-2. Excise tax on bottled soft drinks, syrups and dry mixtures; disposition thereof.

For the purpose of providing revenue for the construction, maintenance and operation of a four-year school of medicine, dentistry and nursing of West Virginia University, an excise tax is hereby levied and imposed on and after midnight of the last day of June, one thousand nine hundred fifty-one, upon the sale, use, handling or distribution of all bottled soft drinks and all soft drink syrups, whether manufactured within or without this state, as follows:

(1) On each bottled soft drink, a tax of one cent on each sixteen and nine-tenths fluid ounces, or fraction thereof, or on each one-half liter, or fraction thereof contained therein.

(2) On each gallon of soft drink syrup, a tax of eighty cents, and in like ratio on each part gallon thereof, or on each four liters of soft drink syrup a tax of eighty-four cents, and in like ratio on each part four liters thereof.

(3) On each ounce by weight of dry mixture or fraction thereof used for making soft drinks, a tax of one cent or on each 28.35 grams, or fraction thereof, a tax of one cent. Any person manufacturing or producing within this state any bottled soft drink or soft drink syrup for sale within this state and any distributor, wholesale dealer or retail dealer or any other person who is the original consignee of any bottled soft drink or soft drink syrup manufactured or produced outside this state, or who brings such drinks or syrups into this state, shall be liable for the excise tax hereby imposed. The excise tax hereby imposed shall not be collected more than once in respect to any bottled soft drink or soft drink syrup manufactured, sold, used or distributed in this state. All revenue collected by the commissioner under the provisions of this article, less such costs of administration as are hereinafter provided for, shall be paid by him into a special medical school fund, which is hereby created in the state treasury, to be used solely for the construction, maintenance and operation of a four-year school of medicine, dentistry and nursing, as otherwise provided by law.
The wonderful irony of this tax escapes me. It specifically requires that the money be used for the copnstruction, maintenance and operation of a particular school. Pretending that the existence of this pretty minor run-of-the-mill commodity tax somehow indicates a tax created to support an obesity education program would be ineffective is a stretch.
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
Of course it’s not going to work. I suppose the state could coerce weight loss, but it would require legislation so draconian that it might even give the most feverent nanny-staters pause. If this really is about weight loss versus just getting addition tax revenue, I hate to see what comes next.

I think my fellow docs should take a step back on this issue. If patients don’t follow weight loss advice, it’s their problem, not ours.
Written By: Galen
URL: http://
Seems to me the Democrats are all for personal liberty, as long as they can hold someone else collectively responsible for the results...
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://

"Watching how the tobacco industry was righteously stripped of all it’s ill-gotten loot"

is untrue. The "loot" comes out of the pockets of consumers.

And this:

"Of course when that happens it is time to bail on your Pepsi and McDonalds stock"

isn’t necessarily the case. Tobacco stocks went UP the day after the MSA was signed.
Written By: Erik
URL: http://
The "loot" comes out of the pockets of consumers.
Erik, it’s a facetious piece ... why else would I use the word "loot"?
Tobacco stocks went UP the day after the MSA was signed.
But where are they now? And, one would assume, if you see a pattern repeating, it might be a good idea to get ahead of the power curve. So it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to imagine such an event wouldn’t repeat itself for obvious reasons.
Written By: McQ
It’s a minor point, but...
isn’t necessarily the case. Tobacco stocks went UP the day after the MSA was signed.
...this doesn’t necessarily mean the settlement was good for tobacco stocks. It might merely mean that tobacco stocks had already internalized the likely settlement. It’s less likely that fast food stocks have already internalized their theoretical settlement, so the considerations are different this far out.
Written By: Jon Henke
Time to enact a reciprocity law, which would enforce a 10% tax on any person, group, or entity lobbying for a tax increase that does not affect all taxable entities equally. And for non-profits so lobbying they would lose non-profit status. That might take the fun out of all these "tattle tales" trying to socially engineer the USA to their specs.

Written By: Maddog
URL: http://
Perhaps this new tax could be used to directly pay for the $1.2 billion America provides in subsidy to its sugar producers. Certain symmetry in taxing Americans sugar consumption so America can pay for the promotion of sugar production.
Written By: Unaha-closp
URL: http://

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