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EDITORIAL: Sugar pop

In the Nanny State, government knows best. It gives you advice you didn’t ask for and laws you don’t need, rewarding itself with increasing power and revenue, while leaving you with fewer freedoms and less cash in your pocket.

Consider the growing war on soda.

This November, voters in the San Francisco Bay Area will consider a penny-per-ounce levy on sweetened soda, sports drinks and canned teas. Supporters of the proposed tax argue that something must be done to curb the consumption of drinks that experts say contribute to tooth decay, obesity and diabetes.

Opponents rightly point out that any tax on grocery items (such as soda) would, by default, lead to higher prices on other items, hurting small businesses and consumers already struggling to make ends meet in one of the country’s most expensive areas.

Adel Alghazali, who owns a produce market in the low-income Mission District, told reporters that he and other store owners “work so hard to keep the price low as much as possible, and we work every day to continue to stay in business.”

Opponents are also rightly concerned that city leaders will just use the tax revenue any way they see fit, despite promises to direct the funds toward public-health programs.

The Bay Area soda tax would be the third like it in the nation. Voters in Berkeley approved a penny-per-ounce tax two years ago, as did voters in Philadelphia in June, taxing diet drinks as well.

This is the second time San Francisco has tried to pass a soda tax. In 2014, the city pushed a “dedicated” soda tax, which required a two-thirds approval, but failed to get enough votes. This time, backers are pushing a “general” tax, which requires just a simple majority, but also comes without any stipulations on how the revenue is spent.

A single, 12-ounce can of Coke contains considerably more sugar than the American Heart Association recommends children consume in an entire day, and a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that roughly 13 percent of African-American and Latino adults are diagnosed with diabetes. Armed with this data, backers of the tax have increased outreach to voters in historically black and Latino neighborhoods that rejected the tax two years ago.

But while there is plenty of evidence to show that Americans are consuming too much sugar — and that excessive consumption is unhealthy — education remains a better approach than using the power of the state to micromanage the choices of private individuals.

And despite all the stated concerns about public health, there is little evidence that this tax will do anything to advance that goal. Instead, it’s a thinly veiled money grab intended to create another steady stream of spending money for politicians and bureaucrats.

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