The slippery slope is real and Seattle just proved it

A few years back I spoke to a full room of Food and Grocery representatives. The audience included high powered executives right down to key sales reps.

I told them that if they didn’t help the tobacco industry fight plain packaging or any other of the fights the tobacco industry was facing then they’d be next. The slippery slope is real.

There was much mirth from the audience and more than few loud yeah rights. Their selfishness for their own business and their own industry while the tobacco industry copped a flogging from activists, government funded health professional and academics was clearly on display.

That attitude is now biting them and the war has now moved on to any product or industry that uses sugar. The measures used to control sugar involve precisely the same tactics as those used against tobacco and the same people. Again the silence from the industry in fighting this wave of government funded activism has moved on a little bit from just sugar.  

In Seattle they have proven that the slippery slope just keeps on sliding into other product lines to restrict, ban or control.

Mayor Ed Murray announced his revised proposal for a tax on sodas and other sugary beverages, which will now also apply to diet soda and similar drinks.

Like cigarette taxes, the soda tax is designed to discourage regular consumption of a product that causes obesity and a host of other health problems. A study of the effects of a similar soda tax in poor neighborhoods in Berkeley over one year found a significant decrease in pop consumption and increase in water consumption. The authors concluded that the tax reduced [sugar-sweetened beverages] consumption in low-income neighborhoods.”

From a public health perspective, this is a very good thing. But what about equity? Sugar (and high fructose corn syrup)-based sodas tend to be bought by poor people of color, while diet soda and similar products are typically slurped up by rich and middle-class white people (who already have reliable enough caloric intake that they can afford to spent money on fake sugar). To make sure that this soda tax targets both groups and not just the former—which would be super-duper regressive—the revised proposal also taxes diet beverages. As a consequence of this larger tax base, the proposed rate of taxation has been reduced from two cents per ounce to 1.75 cents per ounce.

Give them an inch, they take a mile. All those who thought it was no matter to them as the tax was just on soda with sugar in it just got a “rude awakening”.

Soda and beverage industry representatives oppose the tax. In a statement released today, the anti-beverage tax group “Keep Seattle Livable for All” said that the tax will kill jobs. “Under the proposal, nearly every beverage in stores would see a sharp spike in costs, with more than 1,000 beverages affected and wholesale prices increasing an average of 60 percent,” the statement read.

They never really fight though and you will recognise the advocates’ arguments in favour of the tax.

The pro-beverage tax group “Seattle Healthy Kids Coalition” also sent out their own press release, which read in part: “It’s time for Seattle to confront obesity, diabetes and other health conditions among our city’s most vulnerable populations,” said co-chairs Dr. Ben Danielson and Estela Ortega. “A tax on sugary drinks will help reduce these health conditions, while also providing a new funding source for education, early learning opportunities and public health programs for Seattle kids.” Thomas R. Frieden, immediate past director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called sugary drink taxes “the single most effective measure to reverse the obesity epidemic.”

Almost word for word the sort of press releases issued against tobacco.

I can almost guarantee we are going to see some press releases soon from the usual troughers proposing the same thing here…and using Seattle as justification.

Once troughers get some action they move on to the next target…and screw them over.

Plain packaging for soda will be next…mark my words.


-Seattle Weekly

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