Obama: government imposed on tobacco, but soda is not tobacco

Gov. Paterson’s proposal to tax soda in New York fizzled, but President Obama believes it may be time to pop a similar sin tax on the nation.

The President, in an interview with Men’s Health magazine released yesterday, said he thought taxing soda and other sugary drinks Obama and tobaccois worth putting on the table as Congress debates health care reform.

“It’s an idea that we should be exploring,” the president said. “There’s no doubt that our kids drink way too much soda. And every study that’s been done about obesity shows that there is as high a correlation between increased soda consumption and obesity as just about anything else.”

Obama is floating the idea seven months after a storm of protest forced poll-challenged Gov. Paterson to drop his plans for an 18% tax on soda and other sugary drinks.

Despite that debacle, congressional lawmakers have considered soda taxes as one way to cover the cost of revamping the nation’s health care system, estimated to eat up much as $1 trillion over the next decade.

But Obama - who works out six days a week and keeps a bowl of apples in the Oval Office - has been largely mum on the controversial topic, at least until now.

As in Paterson’s case, Obama’s comments drew the immediate wrath of industry and consumer-choice groups yesterday.

“The tax code should not be used as a method for social engineering, and that’s what this is,” said J. Justin Wilson, the senior research analyst for the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group funded in part by the food and beverage industry. “It smacks of the regulation that government imposed on tobacco, but soda is not tobacco.”

Obama acknowledged that the idea could lead to charges that Uncle Sam is trying to dictate personal diets, but he hinted the trade-off may be worth it.

“Look, people’s attitude is that they don’t necessarily want Big Brother telling them what to eat or drink, and I understand that,” Obama said.

“It is true, though, that if you wanted to make a big impact on people’s health in this country, reducing things like soda consumption would be helpful.”

© Copyright: September 8th 2009 Nydailynews

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