Rasmussen Reports recently conducted a survey on the public’s opinion of “sin taxes”—i.e., taxes on such things as alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. One question on taxing sugar was thrown into the mix:

A proposal now before Congress would add a one-cent-per-teaspoon tax on sugar to discourage sugar use and help fund programs to fight obesity and diabetes. Do you favor or oppose a sugar tax like this?

As expected, 72 percent of the respondents opposed the tax, while only 20 percent were in favor of it.

The survey question is referring to H.R. 5279, the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax (SWEET) Act, a bill recently introduced in Congress. This bill seeks to “impose an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages”—including soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks—and then “dedicate the revenues…to the prevention, treatment, and research of diet-related health conditions.”

The proposed legislation ignores individual liberty and presumes that the government knows how you should live your life. The “food police” want to manipulate the tax code to control personal decisions to align the public’s actions with what they deem as acceptable dietary choices. Government shouldn’t be trying to protect people from themselves. If individuals want to drink sugar-sweetened beverages, that’s their prerogative.

Further, the tax is arbitrary. There are many types of food that could have been in the crosshairs, but these beverages were specifically targeted. Cookies, pizza, hamburgers, and other foods might be next.

This legislation also ignores the complexity of dietary choices. Many people who choose these beverages may have a healthier diet than those who don’t drink them. A person who drinks a couple of sodas, for instance, may consume far fewer calories and less sugar than most other individuals—there’s nothing inherently unhealthy about sugar-sweetened beverages. Also, individuals who consume fewer calories from sugar-sweetened beverages might offset those calories from other sources that could be less healthy.

This recent poll supports the notion that the public doesn’t want government officials imposing taxes on their food choices. These types of taxing schemes distort the market, making it less efficient and less able to cost-effectively meet consumer preferences.

It’s disturbing how arrogant the “food police” are in thinking they should intrude on basic aspects of the lives of Americans and, further, that they actually have the ability to know what every individual should eat. They don’t. It’s simply not their responsibility.