Two California Cities Trying To Pass Laws That Would Tax Sugary Drinks By The Ounce

Now that the crusade against soda and other sugary drinks has been effectively quashed in New York City, two West Coast municipalities are trying to take up the torch. San Francisco and Berkeley are trying to become the first cities in the U.S. to pass per-ounce taxes on sugary drinks, and the industry is paying attention.

If the cities are successful, sugary drinks will be treated basically like cigarettes, taxwise, points out the Associated Press. Big companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are likely worried the laws will pass, spurring health advocates around the country to push similar measures.

But if they can’t get this thing to fly, the idea of trying to curb consumption of such beverages through taxes or similar laws will probably be dead in the water in the future.

“The industry is really motivated to beat us here. If they can beat us in San Francisco and Berkeley, nobody is going to take them on,” said a political consultant handling the campaign in support of the tax in Berkeley.

It’s not easy to pass these laws — 30 special taxes on sugary drinks have been introduced since 2009, and none have lived. The beverage industry says this means people don’t want a tax, while proponents point the finger at the big bucks spent by companies to stymie the measures.

But out West, supporters of the tax say they’re ready for battle, and will use a variety of tactics to educate voters on the issue beforehand — fliers, TV ads, calling up voters and more.

In San Francisco, a $0.02 tax on sugary drinks would not apply to milk or natural fruit juices that don’t add sugar. It needs a two-thirds vote to pass in November. In Berkeley, the proposed tax is $0.01 per ounce and needs a simple majority.

While this isn’t in any of the reports, one must assume that the tingle on the back of these advocates’ necks is the living specter of NYC’s former mayor watching over the whole process, whispering, “Say nooooo to sugary driiiiiinks…

Soda tax’s last stand? Bay Area preps for showdown [Associated Press]