Voting soda off the ballot

Four US cities voted on ballot measures to establish a soda tax. And in all four, the measures passed. 

Jeff Chiu/AP/File
Soft drink and soda bottles are displayed in a refrigerator at El Ahorro market in San Francisco.

Americans have elected more than the next President. Four cities—in California, Albany, Oakland, and San Francisco, along with Boulder, Colorado—voted on ballot measures to establish a soda tax. And in all four, the measures passed. 

Albany, Oakland, and San Francisco will now charge a one percent tax on all sugary beverages. The ballot measures passed with enthusiastic support—62 percent in San Francisco and Oakland, and 71 percent in Albany. A two percent soda tax Boulder passed with 55 percent support. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the American Beverage Association (ABA), a group that represents many soda companies, spent at least US$64.6 million from 2009 to 2016 in local anti-soda tax efforts.

Berkeley, California was the first city in the United States to introduce a soda and sugar beverage tax, where a measure passed in March 2015. The decision followed a 2014 tax passed in Mexico. And in June 2016, a similar law passed in Philadelphia after a much debate between soda companies, health professionals, and local communities. 

Eight weeks after the Philadelphia tax passed, in August 2016, the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) published a study finding that consumers in low-income neighborhoods drank 21 percent less sugary beverages after the implementation of the soda tax in Berkeley. Consumption of water also increased by 63 percent in the same neighborhoods. And, an observational study from the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reported lower consumption of sweetened beverages in Mexico following its implementation of a tax on certain sugary drinks.

Following the success of the ballot measures, Nancy Brown, spokeswoman of the American Heart Association, said in a statement, “Voters of San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany, California, as well as Boulder, Colorado, delivered a big win on sugary drinks for the health of their community. And a big win for the nation by continuing to demonstrate that cities and citizens have the power to initiate positive change."

This story originally appeared on Food Tank.

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