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A Win for Public Health in Berkeley


Three-fourths of voters approve tax on sugary drinks!

The voters of Berkeley, California, have delivered a big win not only for the health of their children, but children across the country by demonstrating that cities and citizens have the power to initiate positive change. 

Sugary drinks are an unnecessary part of the American diet that decades ago were just a treat and are now guzzled at alarming rates. From sports drinks to sodas to fruit-flavored drinks, today’s children are drinking their age in these sugary drinks each week. Evidence shows adults should not consume more than about 36 ounces (or 450 calories) each week, yet the average 8-year old boy consumes 8 servings, or 64 ounces, each week.

Voters in Berkeley should be commended for overwhelmingly rejecting the big spending and false arguments of outsiders and standing up for what they knew was right for their community. Reducing consumption will improve rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The beverage industry spent more than $10 million on the fight in Berkeley and San Francisco  – an overwhelming amount per registered voter - opposing the excise tax measures in the two cities.

The people of San Francisco clearly voiced their interest and support for increasing the price of sugary drinks. A majority of voters – more than 55 percent - chose health in spite of an onslaught of millions of dollars in negative advertising from the beverage industry. Policymakers across the country should take note that the majority of voters in both of these cities supported a significant increase in the price of sugary drinks in order to address the dual epidemics of obesity and diabetes we face as a nation.

The win in California will likely encourage other cities and states to follow suit. In addition, preliminary results of the peso per liter excise tax that went into effect in January of this year in Mexico show that sales and consumption have declined as a result.

We hope to see decision makers in Illinois stand up for the health of our children by using pricing strategies to help make the healthy choice the easy choice.  To get involved in the Illinois campaign to reduce sugary-beverage consumption, please contact me at [email protected].

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