The Soda Tax War – Assembly Bill 1357

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On November 4, 2014, the United States saw the first city in the nation to have passed a law that put a 1-cent-an-ounce tax on any sugary drink. The Measure D Campaign in Berkeley, California is an important success for proponents of this law as other major cities and states have received opposition for decades. Particularly in the state of California, the law has continuously failed to get passed at the state Capitol in Sacramento, and is going through local jurisdictions for movement of the bill. The tax comes from the rising and alarming trend of obesity and heart-related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, experienced across the nation.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

A study conducted by Harvard researchers in 2013 mimicked the soda tax in a cafeteria of a financial services company, and found that the number of sales for higher-cost, high-calorie beverages were lower than the unchanged prices of low-calorie beverages. The 16% decline in sales demonstrates that increasing the price of a sugary beverage by a few cents can lead to a lower rate of consumption of high-calorie beverages.

Hard opposition comes from multimillion-dollar campaigns from soft-drink manufacturers and groups such as the American Beverage Association, California Chamber of Commerce, and Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. They have increased their lobbying efforts to fight the tax bill. Their argument has been promoting the prevention of putting more taxes on the people and pointing out that the fight against obesity and diabetes doesn’t fall solely on raising taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB).

While changing a dietary habit may take some time and involve other factors, having a sugar tax is one of the important notions of decreasing consumption of SSB. With the success found in Berkeley, proponents hope this would be the catalyst for other cities and states to keep fighting for the bill.

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5 Responses to “The Soda Tax War – Assembly Bill 1357”

  1. jsmall14 Says:

    Obesity is a severe problem that needs a multifaceted approach to solving it. Making sugary drinks less attractive, financially, is one way to improve public health. I’ve always wondered if you were able to have a sizable shift of consumer behaviors from sugary drinks to water, what is the potential environmental impact to drinking water supplies?

  2. ddelpoz1 Says:

    Thank you for this post. As an american, I am pleased with the successful passing of this law in Berkeley, CA. SSB has been identified as a contributing factor in weight gain and obesity as well as in other health problems such as type two diabetes and metabolic syndrome. However, these health problems are complex with many contributing factors. America’s neighbor to the south, Mexico, started it’s own ‘war’ on sugar sweetened beverages a few years back which resulted in the passage of a national sugar tax in 2013. The sales tax appears to be working, with sales of SSB in Mexico down by 6%. Surely a sugar tax alone will not be enough to curb obesity rates, however it certainly is a step in the right direction. In a country where people drink an average of 163 liters of soda per capita per year, Reducing consumption and raising awareness of an important public health issue is a sweet victory!

    You can read more about the sugar tax in Mexico at:
    http://www.wired.com/2015/07/mexicos-soda-tax-working-us-learn/

  3. marymeyerfox Says:

    I really appreciate this post, which accurately describes both the beneficial effects a soda tax has had in Mexico and the frustrating opposition similar ballot measures have faced in the US. I am from San Francisco, and at the same time that Berkeley was voting in a soda tax, my city became the 31st municipality to vote down the soda tax. Why didn’t the tax pass in SF, which many people view as the progressive, hippie twin city to Berkeley? It’s been suggested that the SF measure, while appealing to middle- and upper-income voters, did not have widespread support among minority or lower-income voters. These are the neighborhoods where people drink more soft drinks and are harder hit by a tax increase. Furthermore, the American Beverage Association funneled $9.1 million into defeating SF’s soda tax: the majority of this money was spent in minority, low-income neighborhoods.
    We need to see more cities voting in a soda tax. Its benefits on soda consumption seem clear. However, to be successful, future measures will need to have widespread grassroots support. We need to work with the communities where soda consumption is highest and get their buy-in by convincing them of the devastating effects that obesity is having in all our communities.

  4. combsem Says:

    The soda tax will be interesting to follow longitudinally, especially to note the impact on children growing up in an environment that discourages SSB from the beginning of their lives. Of course, with all the contributing factors beyond the Soda Tax this is something of a pipe-dream. However, the potential influence on the eating and drinking culture is an important one to consider, in addition to the immediate financial implications of the soda tax. Thank you Phung4 for contributing an article on such an important topic.

  5. ehorinek Says:

    This is a really interesting topic, and I definitely support the motivation behind a soda tax. I am, however, a little bit skeptical about how well it might work. I can’t help but wonder who it is that’s cutting the soda from their intake. I feel like a one cent per ounce tax might not be enough to dissuade habitual soda drinkers from drinking soda, but may have greater effect on people who only sometimes drink soda. This skepticism isn’t really based on anything other than my own feelings and experience: I drink soda once, maybe twice, a month, but I think that if it were more expensive, I would probably just get water, instead. On the other hand, I feel like people who drink soda on a regular basis, might just consider the cent-an-ounce tax a minor annoyance, and continue as they always have. It would be interesting to see a long-term study done, comparing fluctuations in soda consumption and obesity rates. Or to see the results of a tax partnered with an educational campaign, focusing on the importance of portion control and highlighting the increased risk of obesity and other diseases that come with drinking SSBs.

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