Sugar is bad for us. We all know that. It's been associated with heart disease, cancer, dementia, type 2 diabetes, poor sleep quality, depression, acne, infertility, impotence — and the list just keeps on going. Well, Berkeley, California is the first place to really do something about it.
As of January 1, sugary drinks in Berkeley will rise in cost as much as 10 percent. That includes energy drinks, sports drinks, syrupy lattes, cola, you name it.
Berkeley residents approved the tax, also known as Measure D, by a 75% majority, making their city the nation's first to impose a soda tax. The victory was hard fought against a "Big Soda" campaign that spent around $2.4 million in Berkeley to oppose the initiative. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $650,000 to support the tax, according to Politico, a bittersweet footnote to his unsuccessful attempt to enact a similar measure in NYC.
Health advocates say the tax will curb the consumption of drinks that contribute to the country's obesity epidemic and type 2 diabetes. And there has been some evidence in the past to support this claim: Harvard researchers found in a 2013 study that increasing the price of a 20 oz. soda by 20 cents led to a 16% sales drop.
So, how will this affect the rest of the nation? Chris Gindlesperger, a spokesman for the American Beverage Association (aka "Big Soda"), thinking pretty optimistically for his own career's sake, told Politico it won't do anything:
"Berkeley doesn't look like mainstream America," he said, noting that polling shows a majority of Americans oppose taxing unhealthy food and drinks. "If politicians want to stake their political reputation on this, they do so at their own risk."
We're hoping, though, that communities similar to Berkeley will follow in its footsteps and that, eventually, the rest of the nation will follow. We know that taxing products like tobacco can curb their use, so why not try the same tactic for soda?
For now, though, the victory in Berkeley will hopefully raise some awareness in America about the dangers of sugary beverages.
Do you think the rest of the country is ready for such a measure?
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