Proposed Soda Tax Gains Traction Ahead of Tuesday Supe Vote

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee unanimously voted today to recommend a tax on soda and sugary beverages sold in the city for the November ballot.

The full Board is scheduled to vote on the soda tax Tuesday, and if the Board votes to place the initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot, the public will then decide whether the 2-cent tax on sweetened beverages will be enacted.

Following the unanimous vote by the budget committee today, Supervisor Scott Wiener said, “These drinks are making San Francisco residents — including children — sick, and we need to address the growing diabetes epidemic in our city. Now is the time to act.”

The soda tax will fund active recreation activities and nutrition programs in San Francisco public schools and the city’s Recreation and Park Department’s sports programs and recreation centers. Through the city’s Department of Public Health, the tax will fund food access and nutrition education.

Supporters of the tax have called attention to health issues associated with drinking sugary drinks, such as obesity and diabetes.

The proposal, primarily sponsored by supervisors Eric Mar, Scott Wiener, and co-sponsored by supervisors Malia Cohen, John Avalos, David Campos and David Chiu, would require a two-thirds vote to approve the tax.

Peter Lauterborn, a legislative aide for Supervisor Mar, said the ballot initiative only needs six supervisors’ approval at next week’s meeting for it get to the ballot.

“Public comment was dramatically in support,” Lauterborn said today following the budget committee’s vote.

Beverage distributors would be charged the tax, which applies to other items such as sports drinks and powders mixed with water. The tax excludes diet sodas, unsweetened water and sugary drinks with under 25 calories per 12 ounces, according to Lauterborn.

The tax is expected to bring in more than $35 million each year if approved and reduce consumption of sugary drinks by up to 31 percent, Weiner said today.

Beverage industry advocacy groups including the American Beverage Association have come out against the proposal. The organization has sent out mailers to San Francisco residents hoping to dissuade local support for the November proposal.

According to Wiener, under the proposed legislation, funding decisions will prioritize disadvantaged and low-income communities that are most impacted by obesity and diabetes.

According to Choose Health SF, a group advocating for the so-called “Soda Tax,” the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 648 — which represents grocery store workers in San Francisco — have endorsed the tax.

Other supporters include the San Francisco Board of Education, the Hospital Council of Northern California, the California Nurses Association, the American Heart Association, and the San Francisco Food Bank.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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  • njudah

    This “soda tax” just funnels money to SF Parks and Rec, an agency not know for its accountability or transparency when it comes to spending money. There are no guarantees they will do ANYTHING they claim. It’s more bullshit from the self righteous “Board”, and I’m voting no. I don’t like diabetes or obesity in kids, etc but this measure is just more slop for the City Hall trough.

    • Justizin

      have you looked at parks & rec spending in any other city, and the results? defunding agencies like muni and rec & park is the constant cry of anyone who criticizes them for not doing enough or being transparent enough. these important public services should be run responsibly, and proving that may be a challenge, but defunding them is just plain stupid.

  • JNGII

    No! No! No! No! Supervisors take a 50% cut in your yearly pay and give it to P&R.
    If snap lets people buy soda, candy or anything else that is not basic food, work towards getting that changed!!!!!. Parent and Human responsibility PERIOD!!!!!!!.

    • Justizin

      just to be clear, the supervisors collectively do not make 2x $35M per year.

      • JNGII

        You got it. It’s the LATTER!.

  • http://www.ameribev.org/ American Beverage Association

    A soda tax would certainly increase revenue at the expense of consumers, but would it help health? No, it would not. Education – not regulation – can encourage people to embrace healthier habits. These habits should apply to overall diet and physical activity, and education can help promote this holistic approach. Demonizing a single source of calories and attempting to tax people to health is ineffectual and naïve.
    -American Beverage Association

  • UrbanUndead

    $.02 is less than I’d like to see, but it’s something. I wouldn’t mind seeing sugary drinks taxed at the rate of distilled spirits (which are taxed at far too low a rate in CA).