Originally posted on blog.heart.org, edited here for length.
Voters approved a historic measure Tuesday that will make Berkeley, California, the first U.S. city to impose a per-ounce tax on sodas and other sweetened beverages―a result welcomed by proponents as a breakthrough in the fight against America’s obesity epidemic.
San Francisco also had a measure on the ballot, which the majority of voters supported, but it did not pass by the required two-thirds margin.
“Today the voters of Berkeley delivered a big win for not only the health of their children, but children across the country by demonstrating that cities and their residents have the power to initiate positive change,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, which supported the measure. “We commend Berkeley for rejecting the big spending and false arguments of outsiders and standing up for what they knew was right for their community.”
Berkeley approved a penny-per-ounce tax, which will raise an estimated $1 million to $3 million annually. The taxes target primarily sodas, iced tea and energy drinks. Exceptions include milk, medicine and alcohol.
San Francisco voters were considering two cents per ounce on sugary drinks, which would have generated about $30 million a year.
Other cities and states will follow suit, Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, said before the election. Previously, no other town had been successful despite several attempts in recent years. Mexico passed a soda tax that began in 2014, and sales and consumption have apparently declined as a result.
Evidence shows adults should not consume more than about 36 ounces, or 450 calories, each week of sugar-sweetened beverages, Brown said. Yet the average 8-year-old boy consumes 8 servings, or 64 ounces, each week.
“Sugary drinks are an unnecessary part of the American diet that decades ago were just a treat and are now guzzled at alarming rates,” Brown said. “From sports drinks to sodas to fruit-flavored drinks, today’s children are drinking their age in these sugary drinks each week.” Yerem Yeghiazarians, M.D., the San Francisco American Heart Association board president, praised the issue as key in the ongoing fight against obesity.
“We want to help grow a heart-healthier generation and we’re proud to lead the country in our efforts to reduce sugary drinks consumption,” he said.
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