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LA Times and SF Chronicle Editorialize Against Local Soda Tax Measures

2 min readBy: Joseph Bishop-Henchman, Ben Stutts

The Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle have both editorialized recently against a local soda taxA soda tax is an excise tax on sugary drinks. Most soda taxes apply a flat rate per ounce of a sugar-sweetened beverage. ballot measure (votes are occurring in El Monte, near Los Angeles, and Richmond, near San Francisco) Proponents are pushing the soda taxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. es as a means to raise revenue while curbing obesity, but critics question the tax’s efficacy at promoting a healthful diet.

The Times editorial:

Measure H and a similar ballot proposal in Richmond don't take nutrition into account; they don't even take calories into account. All they consider is sugar, in any form and quantity. This means that some of the newer diet soda formulations that add just a bit of sugar to improve flavor — such as Dr. Pepper 10, with only 10 calories per cup — would be taxed. (Regular soda has about 100 calories per cup.) But regular apple juice, not from concentrate, with 12 times the calories and little nutritional value, would not.[…]

The backers of soda taxes see the El Monte and Richmond votes as a path toward statewide soda taxes, but these measures show why such levies are the wrong approach to fighting obesity.

The Chronicle editorial:

Measure N is also far too broad – "sugar-sweetened beverages" is a category that could encompass everything from sodas to infant formula.

Though Measure N proponents insist that they'll create new language to specifically exempt infant formula and the nutritional supplement drinks that are marketed to seniors, that language isn't in the measure that's before the voters. Promising voters you'll fix a law as soon as they agree to pass it does not suggest a well-crafted measure. It also requires a certain leap of faith.

Our recent paper, Soda Tax Proposals Bubbling Up in California, reviews the proposed El Monte and Richmond soda tax proposals and describes how the proposed soda taxes would disproportionately burdens low income individuals, would tax soda more than beer and wine, and would be simultaneously too blunt and too narrow an instrument to encourage healthier diets.