RICHMOND (KCBS) – Richmond is trying to become the first city in the country to impose a so-called “soda tax.”

Measure N would impose a penny-per-ounce surcharge on sugar-sweetened beverages. Proponents say it’s a way to help fight childhood obesity.

“What is a soda? A soda is a glass of water with ten to fifteen teaspoons of sugar mixed in, some flavoring and some color,” argued Dr. Jeff Ritterman, Richmond city councilman and retired cardiologist. “34% percent of our African American fifth and seventh graders are obese. 33% of our Latino fifth and seventh graders are obese.”

“Richmond children will die younger than their parents if we don’t intervene.”

Childhood obesity aside, Ritterman acknowledges that the measure he is so valiantly trying to pass is, at its core, a business license fee – and one that could generate as much as $3 million annually for Richmond.

“The money goes directly into the city’s general fund with no strings attached and to quote from the ordinance, ‘can be used for any lawful municipal use.'”

Opponents say, ultimately, voters are being misled about Measure N.

“What Measure N really is is it’s a new business license tax that’s proposed for Richmond,” said Chuck Finnie, spokesman for the No on N campaign.

Finnie concedes that Measure N is bringing awareness to the problem of obesity in the community, but argues that it penalizes small businesses even more.

“They’re going to put these markets, stores, restaurants and other food vendors at a competitive disadvantage relative to their counterparts across the city limits,” he argued.

Finnie is part of the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, which is principally funded by the American Beverage Association.

KCBS’ Dave Padilla Reports:

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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