Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

San Francisco Bay Area Considering Soda Tax

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

San Francisco Bay Area Considering Soda Tax

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO - The national fight over sugary soda is bubbling up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where voters in November will consider a tax on the drinks that many health experts say contribute to diabetes, obesity and tooth decay. Backers of the campaign say a penny-per-ounce tax is needed in San Francisco, Oakland and tiny Albany to curb consumption of sweetened cola, sports drinks and canned teas that people gulp without thinking, adding empty calories.

Opponents, however, say a "grocery tax will lead to higher prices on other goods, hurting small businesses and customers struggling to survive in one of the country's most expensive places. They also warn that city leaders can use the money however they want, despite talk of putting it toward health programs.

"We work so hard to keep the price low as much as possible, and we work every day to continue to stay in business, said Adel Alghazali, who recently talked to reporters at his produce market in the low-income Mission District.

Only a couple of other U.S. cities have adopted such a tax.

Voters in Berkeley approved a penny-per-ounce soda tax in 2014. And Philadelphia did so in June, taxing diet drinks as well. The American Beverage Association is suing to prevent the 1.5-cent-per- ounce tax from taking effect in January.

Bay Area success this fall could tip the national conversation, said Lawrence Gostin, a global health law professor at Georgetown University and tax supporter. Voters in Boulder, Colorado, also will decide on a soda tax measure Nov. 8.

"Not long ago, it would have been unthinkable to tax soda, and now, not only are we thinking about it, we're doing it, Gostin said.

The Bay Area campaign battle is costly, with opponents funded largely by the American Beverage Association reserving nearly $10 million in television ad time. Meanwhile, soda tax advocate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has donated about $1.7 million each to the Oakland and San Francisco campaigns.

This is San Francisco's second try at a soda tax. In 2014, a similar proposal failed to get enough votes for a "dedicated tax, which requires a two-thirds approval.

This year, backers went for a "general tax, which requires a simple majority and doesn't stipulate how the revenue is spent. …

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