On November 8th those of you who reside in Oakland, San Francisco, and Albany, as well as other U.S. cities (Boulder, Chicago, and Baltimore), will have the unique opportunity to help repair the world by voting yes on the proposed sugary soda tax. This one-cent tax aims to help reduce childhood obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.
The obesity rate in children has risen to a staggering 18% (up from 7% in 1980), according to the Centers for Disease Control, and is climbing. Furthermore, one out of every three children is on the road to developing Type 2 Diabetes, formerly an adult disease. It is now predicted that for the first time, the next generation will not exceed our lifespan.
Sugar is directly linked to increased risk of these two diseases, which are two of the major risk factors for heart disease. Soda and other sugary drinks are the number one source of added sugar in the American diet.
What the tax entails:
This tax would levy one cent per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages, including sports drinks like Gatorade, energy drinks, sweetened teas, fruit juices, and products like frappucinos.
• Reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages & get children to switch to healthier options
• Raise awareness
• Raise money for health education
• Stop the progression of childhood obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, tooth decay and heart disease
• Save on healthcare costs
Researchers at Harvard project that prices on these culprit drinks would increase by 16.3%, causing many to switch to other drinks. This would result in a 4% drop in diabetes in a few years, and nearly 6,000 fewer people would be plagued by obesity by the end of 2025.
In both San Francisco and Oakland, the proposed tax would flow into the general fund and be targeted towards education and awareness of the ills of sugar in the lower income neighborhoods, the largest consumers of sugary drinks.
Success in Berkeley:
Passed in early 2015, the tax resulted in a 21% decline in soda consumption, among the hardest hit communities. On the other hand, Oakland and San Francisco experienced a 4% increase in equivalent neighborhoods, according to Marion Nestle’s Food Politics website. Furthermore, Berkeley’s tax has generated more than $1.5 million for nutrition & health programs.
Breaking Down the Obstacles
Why the general fund?
When San Francisco first attempted this tax, the monies were earmarked to go into a specific fund for health programs. That measure required a 2/3 majority to pass, but received only 55%.
Now the bill has been rewritten to funnel the monies into the general fund, which requires only a 50% majority.
Not a grocery tax.
The grocery distributors, funded largely by the American Beverage Association, would have you believe that this is a grocery tax, as indicated by their advertising, in order to confuse many voters. This is not the case. It is a tax only on sugary drinks and will be levied on the distributors, not the consumers.
Harold Goldstein, Executive Director of California Center for Public Health Advocacy says, “soda tax’s time has come. We’re at the point of no return where soda taxes are going to be sweeping the country & sweeping the world.” Already such a tax has passed in Philadelphia, as well as Great Britain, France, Hungary, and Mexico.
I agree with Mr. Goldstein. Sugar is weighing down our children and is directly linked to a variety of illnesses besides obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, including high blood pressure, lipid problems (because sugar converts to fat when consumed in large amounts) and cardiovascular disease.
The three Bay Area ballot initiatives combined would raise at least $22.2 million per year for programs to improve children’s health and prevent the diseases associated with excess sugar consumption, and eventually, limit rising health costs over the next ten years. Healthy Food America’s Executive Director, Jim Krieger states,
“When these cities join Berkeley, whose soda tax already is having an impact, the Bay Area will lead the nation in saving lives by taking bold steps to prevent chronic disease.”
The American Heart Association, along with the World Health Organization recommends children consume less than six teaspoons of added sugar per day. A 12-ounce can of regular Coca-Cola contains nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar. Fruit juices contain the same.
This tax is endorsed by many important groups, including the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, California Nurses Association, California Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, California Black Health Network, La Clinica, and many other organizations and elected officials. A complete list is available online.
Please vote yes on Oakland’s Measure HH, San Francisco’s Proposition V, or Albany’s Measure O1, and help repair the world, one child at a time.
Connect with me on Twitter @JLitvin.