Could Berkeley's Soda Tax Catch On?

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Why you should care

Because your city or state may be the next battleground in the soda war.

The last in our three-part series with food politics expert Marion Nestle, professor of food studies, nutrition and public health at New York University.

Depending on your politics, Berkeley, California, is revered as a public policy pioneer or reviled as a hotbed of lefty Lucies. Berkeley was first to initiate curbside recycling, and an early adopter of a law mandating a “nuclear-free zone.” The university town was the heart of the free-speech movement in the 1960s. And now — as of fall 2014 — Berkeley is the first city in America to pass a tax on sugary beverages specifically to target obesity. The idea is that soda, because of how much of it Americans drink, is a major contributor to obesity, and taxing it is one step toward changing consumption patterns.

The American Beverage Association, among many other soda industry players, would beg to differ, saying all that a tax on soda does is saddle poor people — statistically the largest consumers of soda — with an unfair tax.

How did Berkeley do it, and how much money did each side fling back and forth? Nestle breaks it down in this video. The effect on the city’s waistline? To be determined.



Numbers and factoids — fodder for your next cocktail party.