4 More U.S. Cities Pass Soda Tax Measures

1996

On Election Day, four more U.S. cities voted in favor of soda taxes. They included three from California San Francisco, Albany and Oakland — as well as Boulder, Colorado.

Advocates of the taxes argued that sweetened beverages like soft drinks and soda are unhealthy and can cause diabetes.

The taxes are projected to generate $15 million in San Francisco, $3.8 million in Boulder and $223,000 in Albany. Oakland took a neutral stance on the proposal, and according to the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, the tax was projected to generate up to $10 million per year.

Boulder added a 2-cent per ounce excise on distributors of sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks and sweetened iced tea. San Francisco, Oakland and Albany each added a 1-cent per ounce excise tax.

Berkeley, California passed the first sugary drink tax in 2014 and saw a decrease in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages by 21 percent. The Berkeley measure generated almost $2 million for health and nutrition programs.

Just a few months ago, Philadelphia became the first major city to follow suit.

Angelique Espinoza, campaign manager of Healthy Boulder Kids, told USA Today that taxes like these should be seen as victories.

“We have won a major victory for the health of our community and all our children,” Espinoza said. “‘Big Soda’ pulled out all the stops in its effort to prevent the tax from being passed, but Boulder stood up for our kids.”

The campaigns to pass the taxes rivaled notable political campaigns, with Healthy Boulder Kids raising and spending $832,694 to support the tax through Nov. 3. Opponents in Boulder spent $945,081 through Nov. 3 to try and defeat the measure.

The American Beverage Association, representing the soft-drink industry, contributed to the cause with $954,496, according to Boulder city records.

San Francisco supporters spent $9.2 million. Opponents to the tax spent $20 million, according to the city’s Ethics Commission.

Supporters of the measure in Oakland raised and spent $6.8 million through Oct. 22. The American Beverage Association contributed $5.4 million through Oct. 22 to a group opposing the tax, with another $850,000 in bills accumulated by that point, according to city records.

Medical organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the Oakland Measure. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the measure could help Oakland.

“It’s time the beverage industries invest in Oakland’s communities and not profit off them,” Schaaf said.

Albany voters supported the measure with almost 71 percent of the yes vote. San Francisco voters gave 62 percent of the yes vote after it failed to raise a two-thirds majority in 2014.

Oakland and Boulder voters gave 64 percent and 54 percent of the yes vote, respectively. The American Beverage Association said it respected the voters’ decisions.

“Our energy remains squarely focused on reducing the sugar consumed from beverages – engaging with prominent public health and community organizations to change behavior,” the group said in a statement. “We’re driving this change across America, including communities with the highest rates of obesity. It’s the hard work necessary for true and lasting change.”