Mixed Results in Two Soda-Tax Measures

San Francisco voters say no; Berkeley levy begins Jan. 1

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two similar soda tax initiatives in Northern California ended in very different conclusions on election night this week.

sugary beverage fight

In San Francisco, Proposition E, a proposed 2-cent-per-ounce tax on the purchase of sugary beverages, was defeated at the polls Tuesday when fewer than two-thirds of voters supported the proposal.

Meanwhile in nearby Berkeley, Calif., Measure D--a 1-cent-per-ounce tax--was approved with a resounding yes from 75% of votes counted.

Supporters of the Berkeley measure hope the tax will influence consumers’ soda consumption habits much the same way the tax on cigarettes ultimately decreased smoking. The law makes an exception for drinks distributed to retailers with less than $100,000 in annual gross receipts.

In San Francisco, the soda tax was proposed to combat health-related illnesses like obesity and diabetes, according to a report in the San Francisco Examiner. It drew the support of the majority of the Board of Supervisors, which voted to place it on the ballot, and a number of health organizations, such as the American Heart Association and the California Dental Association.

The American Beverage Association, which represents the large soda companies, had raised $7.7 million as of Sept. 30 to oppose the measure, according to the report. The group's campaign had seized upon San Francisco's rising cost of living and growing income inequality, and had suggested in ads that the tax would increase the cost of groceries and meals at restaurants.

It was estimated that the 2-cent-per-ounce tax would have decreased sugary-beverage consumption by as much as 31%, according to a City Controller's Office report, and the tax could have generated as much as $54 million a year to be spent on nutritional school lunches, dental care for low-income residents, increased recreation-center hours and water-bottle fill stations.

Because the measure specified how the tax money would be spent, it required a two-thirds majority of votes to pass. Preliminary voting results show about 45% of voters supported Prop E.

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