Activism Economics

Berkeley Just Passed The First Ever Soda Tax

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In true Berkeley fashion, Berkeley became the first city in the United States to pass a sugary drinks tax yesterday in the midterm elections. The first-ever soda tax, called “Measure D”, only required a majority although it ended up receiving over three-quarters of the votes. The measure will enact a 1-cent-an-ounce tax on most sugar-sweetened beverages and does not include diet sodas. See here for a full list of taxable beverages.

In the geographically and ideologically similar city of San Francisco, there was no such luck. An almost identical measure there failed to reach the two-thirds majority it needed to pass, although more than half the voters approved the tax.

The American Beverage Association reportedly invested over 10 million dollars in campaigning against the tax. Despite the efforts of Big Soda, Bay Area residents are responding to the medical evidence of soda’s toxicity. As we’ve posted previously, soda contributes to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and dental health complications. Thirty other cities have attempted to pass similar measures unsuccessfully, most notably Bloomberg’s battle against oversized sodas earlier this year.

The win in Berkeley is exciting, yes, but how indicative is it of a broader attitude shift? The northern California city is known for its distinctly liberal and progressive residents and historically has been a trailblazer for health-minded movements like indoor smoking bans and public school food policies. Roger Salazar, a representative of the opposition campaign says the Berkeley vote “meant little nationally.” More optimistic about the demise of soda is Measure D co-chair Josh Daniels. On the victory, he says, “I think you will now see many, many other cities and communities around the country looking at this as a genuine public policy to address the diabetes and obesity crisis that we face.” Let’s hope he’s right.

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“Berkeley Just Passed The First Ever Soda Tax”