Tax War Erupts Over Soda in California

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A pair of small cities in California will be the latest to take on the country’s $111 billion sugary soda industry as voters in both areas will go to the polls in November to decide if penny-per-ounce taxes should be passed on sweetened drinks.

The purpose of the proposed taxes is to fight epidemic rates of obesity and add funds to financially distressed municipal coffers.   Approval for the taxes in El Monte and Richmond could give other cities the necessary courage to fight the big soda industry who has until recently been able to fight any tax proposals.  The floodgates could very well open; more and more Americans feel that a tax on calorie-laden sugar-based beverages is a good way to improve financial bottom lines and improve community health.

Small cities in California were the first to impose taxes on cigarettes and tobacco a few decades ago, and soon afterwards the entire U.S. followed suit; the sweet beverage industry wishes to avoid the fate of tobacco companies.

Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity and soda tax proponent said: “The first few victories make an enormous difference.”

The American Beverage Association, which includes brands such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, has already spent millions of dollars in advertising to fight the proposed taxes.  The ABA claims the taxes hurt poor people and unfairly target one product; the association further rejects claims of links between sugary drinks and obesity, claiming obesity rates have risen while consumption of fizzy soft drinks has gone down.

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