For the First Time, Voters Put Soda In Its Place

Berkeley, California has officially become our nation's first city to pass a soda tax.

Following yesterday's vote, this landmark measure will place a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks in an effort to reduce consumption and combat diet-related diseases like diabetes and obesity. Given that sugary drinks contribute no nutrients or feeling of fullness, and that they're linked with sicknesses like diabetes, Texans Care for Children has long supported similar tax proposals in Texas.

Part of what makes sugary drinks unique in our obesity crisis is that they don’t make us feel full and often they are the most calorie-dense part of a meal. Additionally, many families are unaware of the fact, for example, that just one sugary drink a day raises an adult’s risk of type-two diabetes by 26 percent. A sugary drink tax is one important way to inform the public about these risks and curb consumption of this unhealthy product.

We applaud Berkeley residents for prioritizing the health of their community despite a well-funded effort on the part of the soda industry to quash the measure. You can watch how Berkeley’s grassroots effort all began here. Although San Francisco’s similar measure fell short yesterday of the 2/3 majority required to pass it, a majority of San Francisco’s residents (54.5%) did vote in favor of the measure.

At Texans Care for Children we see this as more than just a tax. We see this as the beginning of a national movement to raise awareness about the health risks of sugary beverages and an opportunity to help kids put sugary drinks back in their place as an occasional treat. Even in Texas, many researchers and experts now agree that a "consumption fee on sugary drinks" makes sense. In fact, a similar fee would reduce consumption by 24 percent, our state's Legislative Budget Board estimated.

In 2011 and 2013, Senator Lucio filed bills to tax sodas and other sugary drinks at a penny per ounce. We will be working with the Legislature again this session on a sugary drink tax. We also believe now is the time to strengthen the state’s public health strategy by creating a scalable sugary drink public health campaign within the Department of State Health Services for communities that want to educate their residents about the risks of consuming too many sugary drinks.

While Berkeley's new sugary drink tax is the first in country, we don't expect it to be the last.