Berkeley to Vote on Measure D Soda Tax

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Voters in Berkeley will have an opportunity on Nov. 4 to decide if they want to levy a tax on sugary beverages.

The proposed “penny per ounce” tax in Berkeley, called Measure D, is backed by a community coalition that says sugary beverages are linked to obesity and related health issues such as diabetes.

Proponents of the measure say it will lower healthcare costs and promote a healthier standard of living. During the “Conversations on the Impacts of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages” at the Hillside Club on Sept. 4th in Berkeley, Dr. Robert Lustig said, “That’s where the money goes: $2.7 trillion spent on health care in America last year, 75 percent for chronic metabolic diseases – and 75 percent of (those) are preventable…”

In part, Measure D seems to be a public health publicity campaign designed to raise public awareness. In addition, the potential rise in the cost of a soda might cause a young adult, or child, to rethink their purchase, perhaps even opt to buy something healthier.

Opponents say that if this measure is about prevention, then money collected from the tax should be allocated to an agency that can continue the battle. But it isn’t.

The measure directs the collected taxes to the City Manager and the general fund. If long-term goals of reducing diabetes and obesity are to be achieved, they say, more needs to be done than just a tax.

Another argument raised by opponents of Measure D is that it only targets a sliver of the high-calorie, low-nutrition food sector. Obesity is not caused by soda alone or even by junk food alone.

Back in 2006, a report titled “Banning Junk Food and Soda Sales in the State’s Public Schools” claims that laws banning soda sales in California will not be enough to combat childhood obesity.

When it comes to sugary drinks, there are some significant statistics:

The average American consumes 50 gallons of soda and other sweetened beverages each year;

Marketers spend close to $500 million dollars a year to reach children and adolescents with messages about sugar-sweetened drinks, more than they spend on any other category;

A child’s risk for obesity increases an average of 60 percent with every additional daily serving of soda;

41 percent of children ages 2–11 and 62 percent of adolescents ages 12–17 in California drink at least one soda or other sugar-sweetened beverage every day.

If Measure D passes, Berkeley will be the first city in the U.S. to impose a tax on sugary drinks, pending a similar measure on the ballot in San Francisco.

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