San Francisco and soda tax

The San Francisco Bay Area in witness to a nation wide fight over taxes to be (or not) imposed on sugary soda. Voters will decide in November whether a tax will be imposed on drinks which a number of health experts say contribute to the incidence of diabetes, tooth decay and obesity. Pro-tax campaigners proclaim that a penny for every ounce tax us required in Oakland, San Francisco and Albany to curb the consumption of sweetened cola, canned teas and sports drinks. All these liquids do is to provide empty calories.

Understandably many oppose this tax. Opponents say that such “grocery tax” could lead to steeper price on the other grocery items, hurting customers and small businesses. These small enterprises struggle to make ends meet in one of United State’s most expensive geographies. There is also the apprehension that city leaders will use this money to do whatever they wish, and not invest in health programs.

It is to be noted that only a few other American cities have imposed such a tax. One of them is Berkeley. Voters in the city have given their seal of approval to a same tax in 2014. Philadelphia followed suit in June, 2016. This is being opposed by American Beverage Association. They have sued to prevent Philadelphia’s 1.5 cent for every ounce tax. This tax, if implemented, will be effective from January.

According to Lawrence Goston of Georgetown University, success of implementing this tax in the Bay Area could influence the whole United States. Residents of Boulder in Colorado will also take a decision on soda tax on November 8. Gostin, a supporter of the tax, said that from a time when it was unthinkable to tax soda, it has come to such that the government has actually done so.

Campaigning in the Bay Area has turned out to be expensive.Opponents to the tax are funded by American Beverage Association. About $10 million worth of television advertisements are being broadcast. Pro-tax advocates are also getting funded. One of the latter is Michael Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York city. He donated approximately $1.7 million to the tax campaign in San Francisco and about $2 million to Oakland campaign.

For the city of San Francisco, this is a second try at imposing soda tax. A similar proposal failed to get sufficient votes in 2014. A two-thirds approval is required for imposing such a tax.

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