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Prevention Institute

October 24th, 2012

Celebrate Food Day by Joining in Support of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Taxes

This Food Day, communities across the country are celebrating healthy, affordable, and sustainable food and food systems. In California, the cities of Richmond and El Monte are on the cutting edge of these efforts, with proposed legislation on the November 6th ballot that puts community health before corporate profits.

Voters in these cities will vote on policies that would impose a penny-per-ounce tax on the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages like soda. Richmond has pledged to spend the increased revenues on community prevention efforts and El Monte has demonstrated an interest as well. That means more physical activity facilities and programs, healthier school meals, and expanded community nutrition programs. So not only will these taxes save lives and money by reducing soda consumption, they will create opportunities for the residents of Richmond and El Monte to live, learn, work and play in communities that better support their health.

The responses have, predictably, been mixed.  Critics of the proposals -- largely comprised of some of the biggest players in the beverage industry -- have spent $2.2 million in Richmond alone to defeat the measure. Yet a chorus of supporters in Richmond, El Monte and beyond have lauded the sugar-sweetened beverage taxes as an important step to address the growing chronic disease epidemic.

In the final days leading up to the election, we shouldn’t let the beverage industry set the terms of this debate. This Food Day, voice your support for Richmond and El Monte’s pioneering efforts to tax sugar-sweetened beverages and put community health first. 

Here are some of the news stories that made a strong case for why the efforts underway in Richmond and El Monte are so important:
  • New America Media interviewed a member of Richmond’s Food Policy Council, Doria Robinson, who stressed the role of “Marketing, marketing and marketing” in driving excess soda consumption in her community. She highlighted the tax as “an opportunity for us to change our own destiny.”
  • In The Atlantic, nutritionist Marion Nestle discussed the Richmond sugar-sweetened beverage tax and asserted, “regulations make it easier for people to eat healthfully without having to think about it. They make the default choice the healthy choice. Most people choose the default, no matter what it is. Telling people cigarettes cause cancer hardly ever got anyone to stop. But regulations did. Taxing cigarettes, banning advertising, setting age limits for purchases, and restricting smoking in airplanes, workplaces, bars and restaurants made it easier for smokers to stop.”
  • KQED Public Radio hosted a forum to discuss Richmond’s proposed tax, pitting Richmond City Council member and soda tax champion Jeff Ritterman against the spokesman for the American Beverage Association-funded Community Coalition Against the Beverage Tax. Ritterman asserted, "We have come up with an ingenious way that a city, independently, can take care of its children."

Take action to support sugar-sweetened beverage policies:
  1. Post a comment online in response to related coverage you’ve seen, or write a letter to the editor in support of Richmond and El Monte’s initiatives.
  2. Use Food Day to pitch a story to a local reporter highlighting the importance of local beverage policy in your community.
  3. Learn more about how junk food marketing affects health: Watch and share We’re Not Buying It, a three-minute video on the role the food industry has in shaping our food environment.
  4. Connect with Strategic Alliance on Twitter (@Strat_Alliance) - we’ll be tweeting research, talking points, and community stories that help make the case for sugar-sweetened beverage policy.

Here are some angles to cover in your online comments, letters to the editor, and op-eds:

  • Sugar-sweetened beverage taxes save lives and money.
    Research demonstrates that a national penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would prevent 100,000 cases of heart disease, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 deaths in the first decade it was enacted. It would also save $17 billion in health-care related expenses while raising $13 billion in revenue, money that could be spent on improving health and wellbeing across the country. Indeed, that’s precisely what Richmond has in mind.
  • Soda companies shouldn’t undermine community priorities.
    In Richmond, instead of letting the community decide for itself how to best support the health of its families and residents, the beverage industry is spending millions of dollars to preserve their profit margins and maintain the status quo. The industry-sponsored campaign against the tax spent $2.2 million through September, roughly 88 times the $25,000 the grassroots support spent.
  • Funding is critical to support community prevention efforts.
    Richmond has vowed to use the funds raised by their sugar-sweetened beverage tax on community prevention efforts like sports facilities, activity programs, nutrition and cooking classes, healthier school meals, and other programs designed to prevent and treat food-related chronic diseases. So not only will the tax save lives by reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, it will fund opportunities for Richmond residents to live, work, learn, and play in a community that better supports health.
  • We cannot afford to raise another ‘Pepsi Generation.’
    The beverage industry spends $948 million a year to target children, using highly trained psychologists and marketing experts to reach them, and these aggressive marketing tactics are paying off. In California, 62% of adolescents ages 12-17 and 41% of children ages 2-11 drink at least one soda or other sugar-sweetened beverage every day: that’s a victory party at industry headquarters and a public health disaster for the rest of us.

Did you pitch a story, submit an editorial, or get something in the news?
Send us a quick note so we can make sure your efforts are recognized.

Rapid Responders, we want to hear from you!

We want to know what you’re working on, the role media advocacy can play in strengthening your efforts, and the kinds of resources that would be most valuable to you. Please take a moment to fill out this brief, 5-minute survey, to share your efforts and needs with us.

Join Prevention Institute at APHA

At the American Public Health Association conference in San Francisco next week, we'll be presenting on a variety of media advocacy, food and activity topics, including We're not buying it: Stop junk food marketing to kids and Choosing your channel: Exploring tools for media advocacy. For more info, click here. We hope to see you there!

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