Prevention Institute strongly opposes California Senate Bill 872. New language in this budget trailer bill would block California cities and counties from passing new taxes on soda and other sugary drinks. California’s communities need the flexibility to pass local policies to protect health—and soda taxes are one of the most effective tools a community can leverage against a powerful and exploitative industry.
Sugary drinks are a major driver of diet-related chronic disease and the largest source of added sugar in the average American's diet. Drinking just 12 ounces of soda a day can increase the risk of heart disease by a third, and people who consume one to two sugary drinks per day have a 26 percent greater risk of developing type-II diabetes. This burden of diet-related disease isn't distributed evenly: low-income communities and communities of color face the highest rates of preventable diseases.
In California today, over 60% of adolescents and 40% of young kids drink one or more sodas a day, a habit that is encouraged by the beverage industry spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year to market to kids everywhere they go: from their homes, their neighborhoods, on TV and online, even in their classrooms and through their peer networks. The beverage industry views African-American and Hispanic communities as a key ‘growth market,’ which means pouring money into advertising to kids of color. African-American kids see more than twice as many TV ads for sugary drinks than their white peers, while Spanish-language advertising is also spiking.
Rather than recognizing the health harms linked to their products, one of the beverage industry’s top priorities is blocking local initiatives to improve health. Following the tobacco industry’s lead, Big Soda has spent years funding junk science to ward off regulation to protect the public’s health. It has also spent tens of millions of dollars to shut down soda taxes and other local initiatives to support health.
But lately, California communities like Berkeley, San Francisco, and Oakland have been winning with voters. What’s more, soda taxes work. Consumption of soda and other sugary drinks dropped by 9.6% in the first year after Berkeley adopted a soda tax.
With soda taxes on the ballot again this November in Sacramento, the beverage industry decided to cut a deal behind closed doors to stop more communities from taking action.
There’s something very wrong when the soda industry is able to stop California cities and counties from protecting their own community members’ health.
We need to let communities decide what’s best for their own health and safety.