California Cola Tax

The old saying goes: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

That attitude proved itself this week in Berkeley, Calif., where voters have finally passed the nation’s first soda tax. According to NPR, more than 30 cities and states across the country have previously attempted to pass such a tax, but have failed due to big spending by the soda industry. Whether Berkeley’s ballot measure is an anomaly or a positive sign of things to come, this small public health initiative deserves some attention.

Berkeley’s soda tax will be levied at a penny per ounce and is estimated to raise over $1 million per year for the city. Proceeds will go to a general fund that will ultimately support a new city council panel for community health initiatives.

According to Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, sodas are now the primary source of added sugar in the American diet. That added sugar is linked to increasing rates of obesity and diabetes in the United States.

Interestingly, public initiatives to originate in Berkley historically achieve broad success. Berkeley was the first city to pass a clean indoor air (i.e., non-smoking) ordinance in 1981. In the mid-70s, the city was the first community to introduce curb cuts, which are now a fundamental sidewalk design principle that benefit disabled citizens and pedestrians alike.

Only time will tell if this measure has the impact of its predecessors.

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