California City Passes First-In-The-Nation Tax On Soda

The American Beverage Association spent about $11 million against the proposed taxes in two Northern California cities. The measure passed in Berkeley.

Voters in Berkeley, California approved the first soda tax in the U.S. on Tuesday, following more than $2 million in expenditures against the ballot measure.

A similar tax failed in San Francisco, where approval was required by two-thirds of voters. 55% percent of voters were in favor of the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, including sodas, energy drinks and pre-sweetened teas.

San Francisco would have added two cents per each ounce of soda. In Berkeley, voters approved a tax of one cent per ounce. Diet soda, milk and nutritional drinks are exempt. Distributors of the beverages — not consumers — will have to pay, though small businesses are excluded.

According to a U.S Department of Health and Human Services estimate from 2010, sodas and other sugary drinks account for more than 1/3 of added sugar in Americans diets. Supporters of the measures hoped to curb obesity rates, particularly in children, as well as health problems from diabetes to tooth decay.

Similar penny-per-ounce taxes have been attempted in the past, but all have failed. The soda industry spent more than $2 million fighting the Berkeley measure, and in San Francisco, $9 million went toward the opposition campaign.