Among my favorite traditions this time of year is baking Christmas cookies. And it wouldn't be Christmas without leaving some of those cookies out for Santa.
Anti-obesity activists are upset that Santa's a bit rounder than government formulas would like. Meme Roth, one of the many self-appointed attack dogs against the humble cookie, said St. Nick's rotund physique is no matter for merriment: “We're talking morbid obesity, which is not jolly.”
But some would-be Scrooges won't be happy merely to get Santa on a treadmill with celery sticks replacing the cookies on his midnight treat spread. Food makers, including us part-time cookie bakers, are their next target.
I will now show these tidings of Christmas future, if the activists get their way. Before paying for butter, eggs and sugar to bake with, the cashier will ask, “Where are your sugar ration cards?”
Ration cards, you ask? One writer in U.S. News and World Report speculated that a program that set a population limit for sugar in food would be a good idea. Companies would go to Wall Street to buy and sell sugar credits, and individuals would get ration cards.
Once your papers are in order and the cashier registers the ration cards, you will see the much higher register price. The government will pass a “fat tax,” and sugar, butter and chocolate chips will all suffer a significant price hike.
They will start with soda. Duke-National University of Singapore researchers predicted that a soda tax will only reduce Americans' daily calorie consumption by about 1 percent. That won't be enough to fight obesity, so revenue-hungry politicians will take aim at the cookie next.
By Christmas Eve, you will prepare to lay out cookies and milk for Santa. You will hear a public service announcement reminding retailers and adults: “Remember to I.D. for cookies this holiday season!”
I.D. for cookies? That will be made law, giving three activist researchers from California their way. In the journal Nature, they declared sugar “toxic” like smoking and demanded that it be controlled like alcohol or tobacco. Regulators will start by banning selling drinks with added sugar to teens under 17; prohibition for cookies and snacks will follow in due time.
These visions of all-too-real proposals need not come to pass. Cookies and chocolate milk aren't chardonnay, and everybody knows that. Denmark recently repealed its tax on butter, and Californians rejected soda taxes by more than 2-to-1 margins.
That doesn't mean Grinch-y bureaucrats won't try to make these harebrained schemes happen, even though a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that sugar consumption is falling — by 3.5 percent since 2000 — by personal responsibility alone.
Who would have thought that New York City would ban sodas larger than 16 ounces before this year? But St. Nick's been around the block a few times, and I for one wouldn't bet against the jolly old elf getting his cookies for years to come.
Wilson is the senior research analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom (www.consumerfreedom.com).