Want to Slim Down? Tax Soda

San Francisco is proposing a tax on big retailers selling sugary sodas.

ByABC News
December 18, 2007, 5:27 PM

Dec. 19, 2007 — -- San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom wants the city to slim down and he's going after stores that sell sugary soft drinks to finance the effort.

The mayor is proposing that grocery chains pay a fee if they sell sodas such as Coca-Cola or any other drinks that are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

If the plan is approved by the Board of Supervisors, the funds raised would help pay for a city initiative focusing on healthy eating and exercise.

Newsom is framing the measure as a fight against chronic obesity, which strains the city's health-care system, but critics say the government is going way too far.

David Harsanyi, author of the book "Nanny State," said, "It's an egregious undermining of freedom. The freedom to choose what I eat and what I don't eat."

The American Beverage Association calls it a "soda tax" and points out, among other things, that the government does not tax computer and video game manufacturers that are keeping people on the couch and out of shape. Opponents say personal freedom is under attack across the country.

But the charismatic mayor thinks obesity rates across America easily justify the measure.

"I think everybody in this country understands the cause-and-effect [relationship between] calorically sweetened beverages and incidences of obesity in this country, and obesity becoming an increasing, problematic health risk," he said.

According to Newsom, the fees are a small cost to bear in comparison to the "obesity rates and overweight issues in this country." Of the 65 percent of Americans considered overweight, studies show roughly one-third are considered "obese," weighing 30 more pounds over their ideal weight.

"That is a health-related cost that all of us are bearing and, in San Francisco, the numbers are consistent," Newsom said.