Four San Francisco supervisors today expressed their commitment to get a measure on the city’s ballot in 2014 that would impose a tax on sugary drinks sold in the city.
Supervisors Eric Mar, Scott Wiener, Malia Cohen and John Avalos held a news conference at City Hall this morning to outline their plans for a tax that would add 2 cents per ounce for sodas and other sugary drinks sold in San Francisco.
The proposal would have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors and is tentatively planned for the November 2014 ballot, where residents would need to pass it with a two-thirds vote.
“The problem is huge,” said Mar, who on Tuesday will introduce his proposed tax after Wiener introduced his version three weeks ago.
The supervisors said the proposals differ only a little and will eventually merge into one measure to go on the ballot.
Wiener said health experts have tied consumption of sugary drinks to type 2 diabetes, obesity and other health problems and that a tax “will save lives and improve public health in San Francisco.”
Dr. Laura Schmidt, a professor with the University of California at San Francisco’s School of Medicine, said recent studies have found even more problems with sugary drinks, which she said can cause increased risk of heart attack, stroke or liver damage and often harm low-income communities the most.
Schmidt said there are “mountains of evidence” that a tax can deter consumers from choosing sugary drinks and picking a healthier option instead.
Wiener said the supervisors will learn from the city of Richmond, which proposed a similar measure last November but had it rejected by 67 percent of voters.
He said Richmond’s tax would have gone to the city’s general fund, while San Francisco’s will be allocated directly to nutrition and physical education at public schools and city recreation and public health programs.
One of the small differences between the two competing San Francisco proposals is the breakdown of how the revenue is distributed, he said.
Wiener also said the beverage industry overwhelmed the proponents of the Richmond measure in campaign spending but said that will not be the case in San Francisco.
“We’re not going to let that happen,” he said. “We’re going to run a very strong, well-funded campaign.”
The beverage industry has already come out against the proposed tax.
The group Californians for Food and Beverage Choice issued a statement saying that measures like the one in Richmond and the proposed one in San Francisco “have been soundly rejected by voters each time they have been proposed.”
The group said, “Regressive beverage taxes that raise the cost of living for consumers and hurt local businesses are no way to improve community health.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News