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California City Passes Nation’s First Sugar Tax

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By Phil Cohen

Last week’s elections resulted in the nation’s first-ever sugar tax passed by a city. Could more follow?

Berkeley, California passed a proposal to implement a penny-per-ounce tax on non-diet soda and other non-alcoholic drinks with more than two calories per ounce and added sweeteners. The proposal needed a majority vote to pass; nearly three-quarters of voters said yes. A similar proposal in San Francisco failed despite getting 55 percent of the vote.

Supporters including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the American Heart Association contributed to the law’s passage in an ongoing effort to target the causes of childhood and lifetime obesity and related diseases. Berkeley is an historic source of small-scale social movements that eventually spread throughout the nation.

The proposal echoes a similar tax implemented in Mexico this year, which data show has contributed to falling soda sales. In the United States, the American Beverage Association spent millions to battle the two California proposals as they did in Mexico previously. 

Political arguments aside, higher soda prices have been proven an effective method to drive down soda sales. Further, if regular soda drinkers turn away from their beverage of choice and replace it with a healthier, lower-calorie option, it could contribute to lower rates of obesity. 

Berkeley’s tax is set to take effect at the beginning of the year.

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Phil Cohen

About the author

Philip Cohen is the founder and President of PRN Funding, LLC. PRN Funding is an extraordinarily focused niche player in healthcare funding. With years of…... Read More

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