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San Francisco passes soda tax; other cities may soon join

Soda taxes

(NaturalNews) Towns and cities across California are launching new measures to help curb soda consumption – with the goal of stopping the growing obesity and diabetes epidemics in their tracks.

Following election day, it was revealed that voters in San Francisco, California, voted to pass a new tax on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages. A neighboring town in the San Francisco Bay Area, Albany, also passed similar legislation, as did the Californian city of Oakland.

In San Francisco, the soda tax – known as Proposition V – reportedly won with a clear majority. Nearing the end of election day, Oakland and Albany reported similar statistics; almost two-thirds of voters were supporting the ballot measures. Berkeley, another city that adorns California's Bay Area, was the first in the nation to pass soda tax legislation in 2014. Since then, other cities have begun to follow suit.

The taxes are not really that surprising; just about one month before these measures found themselves on the ballots, the World Health Organization recommended that governments begin introducing such types of legislation. The WHO believes that these efforts will help reduce obesity, diabetes and other diet-related health conditions.

John Maa, a doctor and the secretary of the San Francisco Medical Society, said that he strongly supports soda taxes, and was pleased that the measure even made it to the ballot. Maa commented, "Not only does it signify the movement is gathering energy, but it also raises awareness. As we've seen in Berkeley, every time these efforts win, it leads to a reduction in soda consumption and, most importantly, it makes the general public aware of the health hazards of sugar-sweetened beverages."

In spite of the praise and support of many, the taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages is not without its detractors. The American Beverage Association – which represents some of the biggest names in the beverage industry – has spent millions of dollars to defeat soda taxation measures. By election day, the organization's spending had surpassed $20 million in San Francisco alone.

Earlier this fall, it was also reported that Big Soda was launching a lawsuit against the city of Oakland in a last-ditch effort to put a halt on the soda tax. The American Beverage Association filed suit, claiming that supporters of the measure were lying to the public in order to gather more support. East Bay Express writes, "The soda company attorneys allege that several claims made by the tax's proponents in their rebuttal argument, which accompanies the ballot measure, are false and misleading." The publication also notes that the lawsuit sought to have "misleading" text removed from the ballot measure.

Some people also question whether or not soda taxes will actually be of benefit to anyone other than the government. In the average American diet, soda takes up approximately 5 percent of calories that are consumed. Studies have suggested that soda taxation will reduce the amount of calories we consume from soda by about 10 percent. It's really quite marginal – 10 percent of 5 percent equals out to about .005 of a percent. Many of those who oppose soda taxes say that it will inevitably inconvenience our nation's poor and provide very little benefit. Even without taxes, soda consumption in the United States has fallen by 25 percent since the 1990s.

Reason writer Baylen Linnekin likens soda taxes to the lottery. "State lotteries were supposed to provide money and resources to public schools and, in turn, to improve educational outcomes. But educational achievement has stagnated in recent decades. And lotteries have served as little more than a tax on the low-income Americans who buy the bulk of the tickets."

In Mexico, studies show that soda consumption had decreased with 12 percent by the December of 2014, following the induction of a soda tax. However, experts have posited that this decrease translates only to a very modest reduction in total calorie intake – and it is unlikely to yield any health benefits.

Yet, other experts maintain that there benefits to be had. Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a professor of medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, says that one of the most dramatic effects will be felt through savings in healthcare costs. According to Bibbins-Domingo, her research indicates that even this modest reduction in soda intake will yield enormous benefits to the population by reducing the incidence of diabetes and its financial strain on the healthcare industry.

Are soda taxes the way of the future? Only time will tell.







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