KANSAS CITY — San Francisco and Berkeley, Calif., have soda taxes on their November ballots despite several failed attempts in the past by the California legislature and a court quashed effort to ban large sugary drinks in New York last year.
San Francisco is seeking a 2c-per-oz tax on sugary drinks, with revenue targeted for programs to promote healthy eating and physical activity, and Berkeley is seeking a 1c-per-oz tax with funds going into the city’s general fund.
The Associated Press reported that the California legislature has made “at least a half dozen attempts to impose some type of tax on sweetened beverages, all of which have failed.” Last year, an attempt to ban “large sugary drinks” in New York City was overturned in the state supreme court. Mexico on Jan. 1, 2014, imposed a tax on sweetened beverages and certain snacks.
The AP story noted that San Francisco and Berkeley have a “record of embracing social change,” with the latter voting to be a nuclear-free zone in the 1980s and both cities banning plastic bags long before the recent state-wide ban went into effect.
San Francisco supporters hope the tax will reduce soft drink consumption by about 33% and raise $35 million annually to fund health education.
Opponents have been airing radio and television ads since September focusing on the added cost to soda drinkers, with some claiming the tax is regressive because people with less education and lower incomes drink more sodas.Liz Applegate, director of sports nutrition at the University of California-Davis, said the efforts were “misguiding consumers” to believe taxing sodas will result in health gains, noting that diabetes rates in young people rose from 3.5% in 1990 to 8.3% in 2012 while consumption of sugary drinks has declined. If anything, California should tax television, which cuts into the time children could be exercising, she said.