Passing the “Soda Tax” in Richmond, California

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Thirty-five percent of adults and 17% of children are obese in the United States compared to 15% and 6.5% in 1980 2, 3.  Added sugar in food and beverages is documented as a large contributor to this increase in the national waistline.  This added sugar comes at the expense of calories with no nutritional benefit.4  Interestingly, liquids appear to affect the body in a different way than food as research shows that the body appears to incorporate fluids quickly leading to hunger pangs despite recent intake of many calories.  Those who drink sugary beverages are also at a much higher risk of obesity and diabetes which not only affects an individual but also increases overall healthcare costs.5  Given this data, it comes as little surprise that the CDC recognized reducing consumption of sugary drinks as a chief obesity prevention strategy 6

Scientific studies estimate that a one cent tax per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages in the United States will decrease consumption by 15 percent in adults preventing roughly 2.4 million diabetes person-years, 95,000 heart attacks, 8,000 strokes, 26,000 premature deaths and prevent 17 billion dollars in medical costs.  This same tax would generate 13 billion in tax revenue. 6  While the tax in Richmond would produce smaller scale results, this law passing in one city is an important first step toward a nationwide beverage tax.  Several other locations had similar legislation fail in large part due to fierce, expensive counter campaigns by the beverage industry. 7  A tax increase on sugar-sweetened beverages has the potential to decrease obesity, decrease healthcare costs, and increase revenue in this country.  Passing the “soda tax” in Richmond, California, could set the stage for similar policies in other cities, states, and the nation in order to help derail our looming obese future.

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5 Responses to “Passing the “Soda Tax” in Richmond, California”

  1. ccopland Says:

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in concert with the NYC health department, has stirred up controversy by enacting a policy to limit the size of sugar-sweetened beverages sold in restaurants, movie theaters, and street carts to no more than 16 ounces. Opponents claim evidence that soda has been the lead driver of the obesity epidemic is more assertion than hard data; the randomized control trials that nearly eliminate sugary drink consumption showed no statistically significant weight loss over time (except for those who were obese and high soda consumers to begin with).

    Will these types of policies curb the consumption of sugary drinks? Probably. Will curbing the consumption of sugary drinks reduce obesity? That has yet to be determined, but many believe sugary drinks are just one minor component behind the obesity epidemic. Most importantly, public health officials should not be discouraged if a drop in obesity rates are not immediately observed, but set their sights on other policy changes (portion size, other unhealthy foodtypes, etc).

  2. mcarellas Says:

    Learning from the NYC soda ban, many citizens feel it is a punishment to all civilians, even those that drink soda in moderation. In fact, a majority of New Yorkers (60% according to The New York Times) feel this way. The decision of what to drink is up to a person’s free will and many feel such a law directly infringes on a human’s civil rights. So although diabetes, obesity, etc are true public health concerns, it is important to see the problem from the public’s eye in order to attain a more rounded picture.

  3. alydpt05 Says:

    While obesity is a major public health problem in today’s society, taxing sugary drinks may not be the best route to addressing the problem. The “soda tax” will likely be met with significant opposition from many groups . It will be viewed as an infringement of rights by those who oppose an increasing reach of government into personal and family decisions. Beverage companies will likely lobby and campaign heavily to prevent this bill from passing into law as was experienced in other cities. Sugary drinks are only one aspect of the problems with diet and lifestyle that are contributing to America’s obesity problem. If this bill were eventually passed into law, would the benefits of this tax be significant? Or is this just the first step with the government then acting to tax other fatty, sugary, or non-nutritive foods?

  4. cwtsai Says:

    In America, you can see people, kids to elders, drinking big size soda everywhere. A lot of people get addition to big size soda. The culture and environment drive this unhealthy behavior, which attribution to the prevalence of obesity. The propose to tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is trying to rise the price of soda, especially big size and hope it will in turn reduce consumption. Besides, the tax has the potential to increase substantial revenue. Opposition to tax on soda by the beverage industry is to be expected. However, from the potential public health benefit, it is a potential effective policy that should be implemented nationwide.

  5. shari01 Says:

    The food industry has been marketing larger sizes of soda, with pricing designed to increase profits (otherwise why do it) while encouraging consumers to think that they are getting a “better deal” with larger sizes (value marketing: see http://googolplex.cuna.org/21373/ajsmall/article.php?doc_id=1625). Taxing sugary beverages, especially large sizes, would presumably reduce the “value” of larger sizes, reducing consumption. Moreover, taxing to decrease “bad behavior” such as smoking or alcohol can be a successful model (http://economics.about.com/od/incometaxestaxcuts/a/pigouvian_tax.htm). (sorry, unable to find hyperlink icon).

    Although a soda tax sounds like a good idea, policy decisions are often result from multiple influences. In Washington DC, a proposed soda tax didn’t pass after opposition from the beverage companies. Those advocating for a soda tax need to be organized, study past failures, and prepared for strong, well-funded opposition.

    I don’t see a soda tax as infringing on individual rights, any more than regulating the size of soda. If people really want double the soda, they can buy 2 servings; there is no limiting quantity, just portion size.

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