Berkeley Soda Tax Breaks Through
For the first time, I was more in tune to an election in another state than my own. The proposed soda tax in Berkeley, California caught my interest. The goals of the tax were to discourage consumption of sugar-containing beverages and generate money to “combat diabetes and obesity.” I was hoping the tax would pass, and it did, thanks to over 75% of the voters, and despite a 2.3 million dollar opposition campaign by the American Beverage Association. However, my reasons were different than the Berkeley proponents.
I am not a fan of targeting diabetes and obesity. This is too small of a target. I am a fan of larger targets, such as the wellness of every person, regardless of disease state or size.
As a dietitian who spent over 20 years in maternal and child health, and as a parent who hosted many birthday parties, I can tell you that slender children can chug down soda as easily as their larger counterparts. (They can be couch potatoes and play as many video games, too.)
So let’s not target those who are obese, okay? Let’s target EVERYONE.
With that in mind, I’m glad the tax passed and now there will be a penny per ounce tax on most sugar-containing beverages. This tax won’t make soda disappear but it may rein in the soda companies and get them to scale down the size of their containers. As for consumers, it may inspire some to re-think portion sizes when they are purchasing sugary beverages.
How much is an ounce of soda anyway? Not much, but when I was young, pop was a “rare treat’ and truly served in “ounces” not in Big Gulps. I remember that occasional single can of Holiday gas station pop my mother would divide up in Dad’s little whiskey glasses for my sisters and me to share. Now it has become a staple in the American diet, and it has taken the place of more nutritious beverages while adding a lot of unnecessary sugar and calories.
Will the tax work? Only time will tell, but if it is anything like tobacco taxation, it shows promise. In states with the highest taxation on tobacco, there are the lowest rates of usage.
Thank you, Berkeley, for your diligence in fighting for health. I look forward to watching you unveil statistics over time to show if this legislation makes a difference. I’m in your corner.