- Public health advocates are pushing for more voter referendums and legislation to tax soda in up to a dozen U.S. cities in 2016.
- These discussions have been revitalized by successful soda tax legislation passage in Mexico in 2013 and in Berkeley, CA, last year.
- "Each time, advocates say, the message from the beverage industry has been the same: Soda taxes are regressive, falling heaviest on the poor. They are riddled with loopholes (milkshakes are not covered, for example) and raise grocery bills — all the while doing nothing, the industry claims, to fight obesity," Politico reported.
The battle over soda and taxes could become even more politicized than usual as next year is an election year with "a presidential campaign already brimming with anti-government vitriol, all but guarantees a white-hot debate in which even a super-sized Slurpee could be turned into a symbol of freedom," Politico reported.
Berkeley was a victory for public health advocates, though it's unclear whether the soda tax has had an effect on soda consumption yet. However, the city government has already raised at least $600,000 from the tax so far. According to one study, the tax is mostly being passed on to consumers as prices for soda rise at the grocery store. As for Mexico, data shows that sugary beverage buying went down approximately 6% in the first year.
Soda companies have spent millions fighting against soda tax and related legislation, with Coca-Cola coming in around $2 million to $3 million per quarter and PepsiCo at more than $1 million per quarter.
"Sin taxes are nothing new, of course. Those levied on alcohol, cigarettes and gambling already provide a steady stream of revenue to state and local governments and have changed purchasing behavior if the taxes are high enough. Whether adding sugary drinks to the list might galvanize voter backlash is an open question, but nanny state issues tend to play well in campaign seasons animated by populist anger," according to Politico.