As it happens, soda taxes may affect only the people who don't need affecting. California Polytechnic State University economists Michael Marlow and Alden Shiers, writing in Regulation magazine, noted data showing that "taxes on alcohol consumption significantly lower drinking by light drinkers, but not heavy drinkers." One study found that a 58 percent tax on soda would "drop the average body mass by only 0.16 points" -- on a scale of 30.
Restrictions on fatty food are no more promising. Suppose a 5-year-old has a Happy Meal every week (which is how often new toys appear). Economist Michael Anderson of the University of California at Berkeley tells me that while a child who dines on fast food may get a couple of hundred extra calories, that's not much compared to the 11,000 calories she is likely to eat in a week.
Besides, people who are diverted from the Golden Arches have plenty of other cheap, tasty, artery-clogging options. "If they don't eat at McDonald's, are they going to go home and eat broccoli and brown rice?" asks Anderson.
Fat chance. His research shows that people who live in places with fast-food restaurants are more likely to eat out, but no more likely to be obese.
The stubborn fact is that people who are intent on doing things that expand their dimensions to an unhealthy degree can always find ways to do so. Ditto for governments.
Steve Chapman blogs daily at newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/steve_chapman. To find out more about Steve Chapman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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