This election day, Berkeley became the first city in the U.S. to pass a tax on sugary beverages. According to the local news outlet Berkeleyside, 75 percent of voters were in favor of the tax. This is in spite efforts to fight the proposal from the beverage industry, which spent $1.7 million campaigning against the tax.
A similar proposal was voted down in nearby San Francisco, where it would have needed two thirds of the votes to win. A number of policy efforts to curb the consumption of sugary beverages have failed in the past, from Michael Bloomberg’s limits on super-sized sodas to various proposed state and city taxes. However, the win in Berkeley could signal a change in public opinion.
Xavier Morales, the executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, writes in a op-ed that “the voters of Berkeley could see through the beverage industry’s efforts to shift the discussion away from health.”Drinking soda and other sugary beverages regularly has been associated with a number of health problems, such as diabetes, obesity and even shorter life spans. Public health researchers have proposed that taxing these drinks could discourage frequent consumption.
Berkeley is leading the way by putting these recommendations into action. We’ll now have the opportunity to see if the soda tax will work as predicted. Will the number of sugary beverages purchased in Berkeley go down? Will health outcomes improve? These are exciting questions to keep in mind in the coming years, and the answers can help provide us with better policy solutions for the future.