Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported the introduction of warning labels for sugary drink advertisements will go into effect next month.
- San Francisco is taking another shot at passing a soda tax, which city officials added to the November ballot this week.
- The city tried and failed to pass a similar soda tax two years ago.
- San Francisco became the first U.S. city to introduce health-related warning labels for sugary drink advertisements, but the labels' implementation is delayed pending an appellate review.
When San Francisco's last soda tax attempt failed two years ago, the atmosphere for such legislation was different. Today, Berkeley, CA, and now Philadelphia have soda taxes, which gives the legislation momentum and traction. Also, San Francisco has led the way in efforts to require sugary drink warning labels, so sentiment surrounding sugar and health concerns is already evident in the area.
But as San Francisco takes up the soda tax banner again, supporters will have to decide whether to position the tax as a public health initiative or an economic boost for the city. In Philadelphia, the latter approach worked, and the tax was posited as a way to fund education programs and park initiatives.
California has been notoriously progressive on public health in the past, from passing (though then delaying) required warning labels for packaging that contains BPA to approving the most stringent U.S. government standards on antibiotics used for livestock production late last year. A public health platform may be more effective in California cities than other states.
Two San Francisco neighbors, Oakland and Albany, will also vote on soda taxes in November. If soda taxes pass in most or all of these cities, that could spark more widespread adoption of ballot measures for soda taxes across the country. Legislators nationwide will have proof that such a tax can pass in cities of varying sizes.
Either way, industry organizations like the American Beverage Association will be ready to fight any tax initiative that comes up to a vote. The ABA has a near decade-long successful track record in its attempts to defeat past soda tax proposals, including 43 victories since 2008.