Posts Tagged ‘soft drinks’

Liability roundup

Medical roundup

  • Outcry among British doctors after trainee pediatrician convicted of negligent homicide in death of patient following systemic errors at understaffed hospital [Telegraph, Saurabh Jha, Medscape, General Medical Council]
  • “There’s no particular reason to think that smokers will be happier with denatured tobacco than drinkers have been with weak beer.” [J.D. Tuccille on FDA plans to reduce nicotine level in cigarettes]
  • “Why Doesn’t the Surgeon General Seek FDA Reclassification of Naloxone to OTC?” [Jeffrey Singer, Cato]
  • “1 in 3 physicians has been sued; by age 55, 1 in 2 hit with suit” [Kevin B. O’Reilly, AMA Wire] “Best and worst states for doctors” [John S Kiernan, WalletHub]
  • “Soon came a ‘routine’ urine drug test, ostensibly to ensure she didn’t abuse the powerful drug. A year later, she got the bill for that test. It was $17,850.” [Beth Mole, ArsTechnica]
  • Milkshakes could be next as sugar-tax Tories in Britain pursue the logic of joylessness [Andrew Stuttaford, National Review]

Seattle: beverage tax backers on sugar high

The city of Seattle has now put its stiff new 1.75 cents per ounce tax on sugary beverages (text of bill) into effect, and Costco managers in the tech city, much to their credit, have not hesitated to post signs informing shoppers of its impact. According to a reporter’s photo, the sign atop a Gatorade Frost Variety Pack lists the regular Costco price of $15.99 along with $10.34 in newly added Seattle tax for a total of $26.33. Helpfully, an adjacent sign advises shoppers that the same item “is also available at our Tukwila and Shoreline locations without City of Seattle Sweetened Beverage Tax.”

Following KIRO7 News coverage of the story, Scott Drenkard of the Tax Foundation wrote a funny Twitter thread on the positions taken by the various advocates:

  • “First they interview people at the Costco who are rightfully shocked at how high prices on soda and sports drinks are now (they are almost doubled).”
  • “Then they interview a public health advocate who says ‘that’s right! We want these prices to change people’s behavior and slow sales!’”
  • “Then they talk to the consumer, ‘think you’ll change your behavior, maybe even shop somewhere else?’ And she’s like, ‘ya the Tukwila store is close enough.’ Then they ask a city council member if this will hurt local biz, who says ‘there is no data’ suggesting that.”
  • “Then the SAME public health advocate says that people won’t respond to price increases, shopping elsewhere because it isn’t ‘worth their while.’”
  • “You can’t have it both ways people! The tax is either big enough to elicit behavior change, which would slow sales and hurt local biz and potentially reduce calories, or it isn’t. Get your stories straight!”

In 2016 I wrote about Philadelphia’s soda tax that “while all taxes are evaded to some extent, excise taxes are especially subject to evasion based on local geography”, and followed up on the Philly measure’s possible openings for unlawful evasion and eventual public corruption. Seattle authorities intend to use the hoped-for $15 million revenue stream to fund various causes and organizations including an effort to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to urban neighborhoods, even though the once-voguish “food deserts” theory blaming dietary choices on the retail environment has sufferedone debunking after another in recent years. [cross-posted and expanded from Cato at Liberty]

P.S. I used to see this constantly from trial lawyers and their advocates on the question of whether it was a good thing for liability insurance rates to rise reflecting the big liberalization of tort recovery that was going on when I wrote The Litigation Explosion. Higher rates were socially desirable, they would say, because they would expose and discourage dangerous actors, such as incompetent doctors and drivers. There followed a big public reaction when it turned out it was not so easy to pick out bad apples ahead of time and that entire specialties like obstetricians and neurosurgeons were having to pay massive premiums. They then switched to the position that there was no connection between expected future payouts and liability premiums, that the problem was insurance companies being greedy, and that liability insurance rates should be frozen by law.

P.P.S. “Philadelphia implemented a 1.5-cent tax on soda in January of last year. …By August, the marketing firm Catalania found a 55 percent decline in the sale of carbonated soft drinks within the city limits — and a 38 percent jump in stores just outside of Philadelphia. Revenue from Philadelphia’s soda tax has also proven disappointing, coming in at $7 million below projections for fiscal year 2017.” [Christian Britschgi, Reason]

Food and drink roundup

June 7 roundup

  • “Copyright Troll’s Tech ‘Experts’ Can Apparently Detect Infringement Before It Happens” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt] “Judge Alsup Threatens To Block Malibu Media From Any More Copyright Trolling In Northern California” [Mike Masnick, same]
  • “The Truth About Seattle’s Proposed Soda Tax and its Ilk” [Baylen Linnekin quoting my piece on the Howard County, Maryland campaign against soft drinks; my related on Philadelphia soda tax] Update: measure passes;
  • “Judge calls attorney a ‘lowlife’ in tossing defamation suit, says ‘truth is an absolute defense'” [Julia Marsh, New York Post]
  • Rent control in Mumbai, as closer to home, brings strife, litigiousness, and crumbling housing stock [Alex Tabarrok] “How Germany Made Rent Control ‘Work'” [Kristian Niemietz, FEE]
  • Together with Judge Alex Williams, Jr., I wrote an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun on the Maryland legislature’s misbegotten scheme to require a six-state compact before fixing its gerrymander-prone redistricting system;
  • Inefficient land title recording leaves billions on table, but lawmakers show scant interest in reform [Arnold Kling]

Drop that iced tea and back away

According to coverage at places like NPR and CNN, an innovative campaign in Howard County, Maryland “provides a road map for other communities to reduce consumption of sugary drinks.” Not so fast, I argue in my new Washington Examiner piece: the suburban county in question is not remotely typical of America as a whole, the Howard County Unsweetened campaign blurred public and private boundaries in a dubious way, and the whole enterprise generated a deserved political pushback. While the plan, promoted by the local Horizon Foundation, might not have been all bad, “it sowed divisiveness, put government resources to improper purpose, and rested on a premise of frank paternalism. When it arrives in your community, you might want to respond as you might to a second pitcher of cola — by pushing it away with a polite, ‘no thanks.'”

Food roundup

  • “What’re You In For?” “Lemonade.” A Boston professor wants sugary drinks handled the same way as alcohol [my new Cato post]
  • Hershey, many other firms sued over “slack fill” packaging by guy who wrote book entitled “Sue and Grow Rich” [John O’Brien, Legal NewsLine]
  • What if we forced food to be more local? The unintended consequences might surprise you [Jayson Lusk]
  • “Shaking up the Conventional Wisdom on Salt” [Michelle Minton, CEI, in January]
  • Demands in U.K. to put “junk food” in plain packaging the way some countries require for cigarettes [Trevor Little, World Trademark Review] Another demand of U.K. anti-food campaigners: stop discounting and offering deals on snacks and candies [BBC]
  • Missed from 2011: FDA vetoes culinary use of the subtle tonka bean, but is it actually any more toxic than nutmeg? [Ike DeLorenzo, The Atlantic]

More on the Philadelphia soda tax

When I wrote about the Philadelphia soda tax last week I didn’t expect it to stimulate much in the way of systematic lawbreaking, as distinct from lawful evasion by consumers’ heading out to buy in the suburbs. But Bob McManus, writing at City Journal, has probably seen farther than I:

…for retailers who deal in, say, 100-case lots ($720), or major-market wholesalers handling 10,000-case shipments ($72,000), the temptation to integrate untaxed product into their inventories and pocket the difference is obvious.

In other words, the primary mechanism of unlawful evasion will probably not be speakeasy-like underground depots, but rather ordinary merchants’ temptation to falsify their volume of soda business for tax purposes. And some branch of city law enforcement will then have the responsibility of policing all these corner store operations without succumbing to either corruption or oppression. Isn’t it great that the Philadelphia police department has such great relations with corner bodega owners?

P.S. Presumably unrelated touch of Philly roughness: Jillian Kay Melchior/Heat Street on the role in getting the bill passed of much-feared construction unionist John Dougherty, seen earlier in this space.