This November, San Francisco might just make history. Voters will decide on whether or not they approve of a two-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks over 25 calories. If passed, San Francisco will be the first city in the nation to have successfully implemented a soda tax. In regards to the bill, the Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said it best, “In San Francisco, we set examples.”
Just as our Indian summer is kicking in, supporters of this bill, which is formally known as Proposition E, are trying to convince us to turn our attention away from the sodas and stay hydrated with healthier liquids, instead. The bill has received endorsements from 17 medical facilities, the San Francisco Unified School District , the San Francisco Parks Alliance, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, and other organizations. On the other hand, the opposition of Prop E is mainly coming from the largest U.S. trade organization for soft drink bottlers, the American Beverage Association.
New York State tried and failed to implement this tax in 2010. The American Beverage Association successfully outspent the pro-tax supporters of this bill through lobbying and advertising. Their ad campaign tried to make the soda tax bill look like a new way to make money off of residents under a “healthy” disguise. According to public lobbying records, the American Beverage Association spent $9.4 million dollars in four months to oppose the soda tax in New York, and they are certainly putting up the same kind of fight in San Francisco. The decision to put the soda tax on the ballot in November only won by a 6-4 margin in a Board of Supervisors vote, demonstrating the kind of competition the pro-tax supporters will face. A Field Research Poll stated that 67% of San Francisco residents would actually support this tax. However, the American Beverage Association has formed an organization called “The Coalition for an Affordable City”. This coalition’s purpose is to recruit people to flood supervisors’ meetings, farmers markets, and neighborhood festivals in order to voice their opinions against the soda tax.
We, at the Foghorn, agree that voting “Yes” on Prop E would be a good step for the citizens of San Francisco to take. Critics of the bill claim this tax will hurt low-income consumers, yet they fail to address this nation’s soda-related health problems, which are without debate more detrimental to low-income consumers both physically and financially. People have a price limit of what they will pay for a certain product, whether it is cigarettes, or in this case, soda. There will always be people so addicted to Coca-Cola that they willingly pay extra to indulge in their love, and we are not going to judge. In fact, as much as we support improving the health of the people of San Francisco, we, and the makers behind this Proposition, know that no matter how hard we try there will always be soda lovers and sellers. That is why profits from this soda tax will be going towards promoting a healthy lifestyle from an early age. The majority of the money will go towards public schools to increase their physical education and nutritional programs, and the rest of the funds will go towards expanding parks and improving access to healthy foods and water.
At this point, the tax is looking like a win-win situation. Businesses might be turned off from the tax, but it will not be hard for them to look for soda alternatives in San Francisco if they decide it is getting too expensive. Passing Prop E here might encourage other cities to pass a law of the same nature. Then, Supervisor Chiu’s comment might ring true: San Francisco is a city that sets examples.