When all else fails, add a tax

Saying it is necessary to trim the city's waistline, Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, proposed charging big stores a fee when they sell sugar-sweet soda, reports The San Francisco Chronicle. The proposal would put an as yet-to-be-defined surcharge on all drinks with high-fructose corn syrup, which is an ingredient in most non-diet sodas and many other food products. The syrup also puts on the pounds, something city officials say strains the health care system. "There's a well-established nexus between obesity, which is caused by high-fructose corn syrup, and the increased health care costs for the city," says Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for the mayor. Money raised by the fee would be spent on a variety of anti-obesity programs in the city, including Shape Up SF, which challenges residents to exercise. Soft-drink makers called the mayor's plan a "flawed strategy" that would have little effect on the city's figure. "It makes no sense to single out any one single cause of obesity, which is a complex problem," says Kevin Keane, a senior vice president of the American Beverage Association, which represents the $105-billion-a-year nonalcoholic beverage industry. Keane suggests that if Newsom really wants to fight the fat, he would take on computer and video game companies, which he says lure children inside "when they should be outside burning calories." Newsom, who professes to be a Diet Coke man and exercises regularly and has already earned the ire of beverage companies with a ban this year on bottled water at City Hall, where staff members now drink filtered and cooled tap water. The soda proposal will be introduced to the Board of Supervisors early next year, Ballard says, and would affect only large retailers, not mom-and-pop stores. As for levies on other child-friendly delicacies, Ballard adds, "The mayor has no intention of imposing a fee on pizza." Well, isn't that special? If politicians have their way, 2008 is going to be a bumpy year.