America’s doctors, fresh out of lollipops, are demanding that government do something about sweeteners in our sodas. Specifically, they want a ‘fat tax‘ imposed to reduce demand and fund “health education.”
Delegates at [the American Medical Association’s] Chicago conference are gunning in particular for high fructose corn syrup, the sweetener which is added to everything from ketchup to cola.
One American politician labeled it the ‘crack of sweeteners’ because it is so widespread.
Before begging for government intervention in the sweetener market, it may help to ask “how did we get here?”
The ‘crack of sweeteners’ epidemic broke out in 1984, when both Coca Cola and Pepsi switched from using sugar to high fructose corn syrup. Why switch? Protectionist sugar tariffs and import quotas, designed to keep domestic producers happy, had made sugar prohibitively expensive. America’s clever entrepreneurs found a more profitable alternative, corn syrup.
The domestic sugar market crashed, as soda manufacturers weren’t the only ones to respond in ways unpredicted by the politicians:
Entrepreneurs were importing high-sugar content products, such as iced-tea mix, and then sifting their sugar content from them and selling the sugar at the high domestic price.
Given this history, and the size of the soda market, legislative efforts to increase the cost of certain sweeteners will be met with the full force of American ingenuity. American consumer demand for cheap, sweet drinks will not go unsated.
As for the proposed “massive public health education campaign” funded by any corn syrup tax, this is also unlikely to make Joe Sixpack-of-Sodas less likely to obey his thirst. If people don’t listen to these concerned doctors face to face, in their offices, they’re not listen to them in a public service message.
Doctors are among America’s most educated and intelligent of citizens. Unlike politicians, they have a hard time succeeding in their profession without understanding that their charge, the human body, is complex, often responding in unpredictable ways to their interventions. Drug interactions are one example among many. Doctors would do well to apply this same understanding to an economic body before rushing to treat the patient.