As he discussed the efficacy of a tax on soda today, CDC chairman Tom Freiden was quick to point out that he was not endorsing the policy as a member of the administration. "I'm just presenting the science," he says. In his opinion, any intervention that reduces the price of healthy foods and increases the price of unhealthy foods "would be effective." The challenge, as he noted, is political and administrative. It's easy to mock a soda tax as being an example of nanny state government, and politicians don't seem interested in exploring what it would really entail. An ad valorem-type tax would produce people to cheaper items in bulk, which won't change consumption habits. A tax per ounce on sugar will probably decrease sugar consumption.
Marc Ambinder is a senior fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.