San Francisco to vote on tax on sugary drinks

29 September 2016

In November, San Fancisco Bay Area voters would consider a tax on the drinks, that, according to many health experts contributed to diabetes, obesity and tooth decay.

According to supporters of the campaign, a penny-per-ounce tax was needed in San Francisco, Oakland and tiny Albany to curb consumption of sweetened cola, sports drinks and canned teas that people gulped without thinking, adding empty calories.

Opponents however, claim a "grocery tax" would lead to higher prices on other goods, hurting small businesses and customers struggling to survive in one of the country's most expensive places. They also warn that city leaders could use the money in whatever way they wanted, despite talk of putting it toward health programmes.

"We work so hard to keep the price low as much as possible, and we work every day to continue to stay in business," said Adel Alghazali, who recently talked to reporters at his produce market in the low-income Mission District.

Berkeley voters approved a penny-per-ounce soda tax in 2014 and Philadelphia did so in June, taxing diet drinks as well. The American Beverage Association was suing to prevent the 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax from taking effect in January.

If Bay Area voters back the tax this fall, it could tip the national conversation, according to Lawrence Gostin, a global health law professor at Georgetown University and tax supporter.

Meanwhile, Albany is one of three California cities which would vote on the tax in November. According to commentators, while San Francisco and Oakland would get more attention, the fight in the smaller town will be just as important.

Albany's proposed tax, labelled Measure O1 on the ballot, would apply a 1-cent-per-ounce tax ''on the distribution of sugar-sweetened beverages and sweeteners used to sweeten such drinks,'' as per the ballot language.

The estimated $223,000 per year raised by the tax would add to the city's general fund.

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