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Prevention Institute alert: October 24, 2014

Get out the vote for health: Berkeley’s soda tax Measure D

“My son died of diabetes. When any child dies it is a tragedy. When your own child dies, you never completely recover… When I read all the misinformation and money that the soda industry is spending to defeat Measure D and drown out health experts just to protect their profits, I get angry.” - Reverend Marvis Peoples, Liberty Hill Baptist Church, Berkeley

With Election Day less than two weeks away (and absentee voting already underway), there’s no time to lose in getting out the vote for Measure D – Berkeley’s penny-per-ounce tax on the distribution of sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages.

The latest numbers show that the beverage industry has spent over $1.7 million to sink this small-city measure – more than $21 per registered voter (and more than has been spent on any election in Berkeley history). With anti-tax ads flooding local TV and radio broadcasts, buying up newspaper space, papering bus stops and light-rail stations, and swinging from residential doorknobs—not to mention the onslaught of mailers and paid canvassers—it can feel like the whole city is being overrun by a corporate propaganda juggernaut.

The beverage industry is all-in to defeat Measure D, betting that if soda taxes can’t pass here, the issue will go away and the industry can go back to business as usual. We can’t let that happen. If the “yesses” win in Berkeley that will be historic. And for those of us committed to limiting the marketing of products that harm public health, a win in Berkeley will be a win nationwide. That’s why we’re asking you to support this effort. Everyone knows someone in Berkeley (at least, we think everyone on our list does). Take a moment today to contact your friends, family, and colleagues in Berkeley, and tell them why you support Measure D, and why they should, too.

Here are some points to make when talking with your friends and neighbors in Berkeley:

  • Sugar-sweetened beverage taxes save lives and money. Research suggests 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—precisely what Berkeley has in mind.
  • If the beverage industry really wanted to help make communities healthier, they’d stop selling chronic disease. The $9.4 million Big Soda has spent lobbying against soda tax proposals in Berkeley and San Francisco is enough money to purchase 2,300 new drinking fountains for Berkeley and SF schools—ensuring access to free, safe tap water for our kids. That’s the kind of solution that holds promise for the health of our communities, and along with access to nutritious school meals, physical education, and parks and recreation programs, that’s precisely the kind of solution a sugar-sweetened beverage tax can help to fund.
  • Voluntary efforts—like the beverage industry’s pledge to cut calories—will never go far enough. The soda industry is “going to sell all the sugar-sweetened beverages they can persuade consumers to buy, which is why we need soda taxes, and why they’re precisely the kinds of public health measures the federal government should be actively pursuing.” - Mark Bittman, New York Times
  • Soda companies shouldn’t undermine community priorities. In Berkeley, industry-sponsored campaigns against the taxes have spent $1.7 million, roughly $21 per registered voter. In an October 1 editorial in Berkeleyside, Pamela Gray wrote that Berkeley residents trust their city council—not the beverage industry—to protect kids’ health: “The City Council agreed unanimously to put the soda tax on the November ballot…Berkeley voters trust their elected leaders to act in good faith …because, unlike the American Beverage Association, the Berkeley City Council is accountable to the people that elected them.”

Vote Yes on Prop 47

Prevention Institute strongly supports Prop 47 as an important step in moving toward justice and equity in the criminal justice system.

Support Safe Neighborhood Parks in LA

Join us TODAY, Friday, October 24, in Los Angeles to learn more about Proposition P, Safe Neighborhood Parks Measure. Click here for more information. 

Soda Battle by the Bay

Read the Forbes blog by PI’s Rob Waters on the changed political climate surrounding soda tax proposals in Berkeley and San Francisco.

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