NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Targeting "Big Food"

April 3, 2002

A few people warned that if the campaign against tobacco was successful, it would inevitably lead to special taxes and lawsuits against other products. Now the same people behind the campaign against tobacco are gearing up to do it again. As with tobacco, it is being justified on the grounds of health.

  • Americans are obese, they say, and consume too many empty calories and not enough fruits and vegetables.
  • Food prices are too low, unhealthy fast food is too convenient, restaurant portions too large, and advertising for all these things has been too successful.
  • Any day now, I expect to hear that Big Food has secretly been adding special ingredients with known health risks -- like salt -- to tempt the ignorant.
  • Just last week, California State Senator Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), introduced legislation to hike taxes on all sugared soft drinks to reduce consumption among youth in order to help control obesity.
  • Other states are eliminating sales tax exemptions for snack foods -- Connecticut, for example, plans to remove a sales tax exemption for candy sold in schools, nursing homes and hospitals, raising their cost by 6 percent.
  • A new book, "Food Politics" (University of California Press), by New York University nutritionist Marion Nestle, indicts the food industry for producing too much, tempting us with foods that taste too good, being too efficient, charging too little for their products, and being culpable in the epidemic of obesity.
  • A few years ago, Yale psychologist Kelly Brownell called for a "Twinkie tax" on unhealthy food and regulation of "junk food" advertising.

If the zealots are successful, we will have lost a little more of our freedom and given the government yet another means of controlling our behavior and picking our pockets.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, April 3, 2002.


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