A law taxing sugary drinks, including sodas, has just passed in Berkley, California, making this the first United States city to adopt such legislature.
Statistics from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters show that more than three quarters of the votes were cast supporting Measure D, which will now mandate a 1 cent per ounce tax on soft drinks. The law only required a majority of “yes” votes to pass.
And while Berkley was adopting the measure, nearby San Francisco voters rejected a similar law taxing sugary drinks, which needed two thirds of voters to approve the two-cent tax.
The law would cause a significant price increase in San Francisco: a can of soda worth 99 cents would now cost closer to $1.24. Similarly, a two-liter soda would no longer be priced around $3.99 but at $5. Proposition E, which did not pass in San Francisco, would have excluded any diet sodas, milk, alternative milks (obtained from soy or almonds containing fruit and vegetable juice) as well as infant formula and meal replacements.
Berkley’s Measure D also exempts diet drinks, 100% juice, baby formula and other natural obtained milk substitutes.
Supporters of the Berkley tax on sugary drinks explain that the imposed tax will result in a reduction of soda consumption, as well as sweetened ice teas and energy drinks. These beverages are linked to the nation’s obesity epidemic which has reached massive proportions, they say.
Berkley and San Francisco aren’t the only cities that have attempted to pass a soda tax. However, the majority of cities have failed due to the well-funded opposition that soda manufacturers represent. For instance, Michael Bloomberg’s, the New York City Mayor, attempt at banning large size sugary beverages was overturned by a New York State judge.
Berkley seems to be the only city which has managed to override its own soda-backed opposition.
“Berkeley has a proud history of setting nationwide trends, such as non-smoking sections in restaurants and bars, curb cuts for wheelchairs, curbside recycling, and public school food policies,”
Vicki Alexander, co-chair of the group supporting Measure D, said in a statement announcing the campaign’s victory.
However, it’s not yet clear whether this win will make Berkley a leader or an outlier. In fact, Roger Salazar, who represents the $10 million opposition campaign in both San Francisco and Berkley, a campaign funded by soft-drink manufacturers, said that the law passed in Berkley meant little nationally.