A Hefty Tax on Soft Drinks May Soon Be Coming to San Francisco


Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg may have failed in his attempt to ban super-sized sodas and soft drinks, but the case for regulating these unhealthy beverages isn’t going away.

San Francisco and sister-city Bay Area city, Berkeley, may pass ballot initiatives next month that could make them the first two cities in the country to add a tax to sodas and soft drinks solely in relation to the health issues these sugary beverages cause.

“The scientific evidence about the significant health effects of sugar-sweetened beverages is overwhelming,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle, which endorsed the ballot measures. “Equally persuasive is the research that suggests a rise in the price of sodas — such as through a tax — would cut consumption.”

Granted, sales of sodas are on the decline across the nation, but they’re still high enough to be cause for concern. “The beverage industry has successfully kept voters and elected officials from connecting the dots,” reports the Chronicle. “It has poured tens of millions of dollars into campaigns and lobbying efforts against proposed soda taxes in 30 states, from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to ban super-size drinks to the penny-an-ounce tax that Richmond voters rejected in 2012.”

Proposition E would add a 2-cents-an-ounce surtax on soda and other sugary drinks sold in the Bay Area cities, and “raise an estimated $30 million a year for physical education and nutrition programs,” the Chronicle explains. “Those programs may prove every bit as important as price in leading young people to think about what they are doing to themselves when they consume a Super Big Gulp, which contains the equivalent of 35 teaspoons of sugar.”

As expected, the soda industry isn’t taking the measure lightly. “The industry is putting up quite a fight, spending a total of $2 million on both sides of the San Francisco Bay, and they’re making an argument that may resonate with the liberal tendencies of the region: that the taxes would put an undue burden on poor residents,” reports TakePart. “Soda does offer plenty of cheap calories, and combined with a lack of access to more nutritious food options in neighborhoods underserved by retailers—certainly more of a concern in San Francisco—it does appear that a tax would affect those least able to afford it.”

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Image: Bev Goodwin