By Phil Matier

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener plans to introduce a ballot measure that would put a tax on sugary drinks. Under his proposal, money from the tax would fund health, nutrition and activity programs for the city’s young people.

Will the city’s voters elect to pay $.02 per ounce of soda—$.24 for a can? That question remains to be answered, but this is the beginning of the third wave of sin tax that the city has had.

There was alcohol, tobacco and now it’s sugar. The city of Richmond tried taking if before the voters but the beverage industry successfully fought it, as they did in Southern California.

The proposal would go on the November 2014 ballot to be decided by the city’s voters. It would require two-thirds approval to pass.

The tax is estimated to generate $31 million in revenue, which would be used to fund recreation and nutrition programs in the city’s schools and parks, according to Wiener’s office.

San Francisco would be the first big city to make the attempt and it should be interesting.

Public health advocates state there is a direct link between substances—such alcohol and tobacco—and public health issues, along with the ensuing costs. Many of them would also say the same about sweet drinks.

The health aspects of it aren’t really arguable, but there is also great political target here. This kind of proposal feels good, and it has a clearly defined enemy that fingers can point to—Big Sugar.

It’s been tried state-wide but did it didn’t fly. The Board of Supervisors passed a resolution 11-0 supporting it, so I think there votes are now there. But it won’t fly without public support.

No politician will publicly say no to it; they would rather pass it on to the voters.

The former president of the American Dietetic Association has stated that we need to get people to drink less soda—and probably less fruit juice too because people get plenty of empty calories that way—but that taxes aren’t the way to do it. He said it will take a broader educational component to get people to see a better way to eat.

The tax, proponents claim, would generate funds for such a component.

This whole idea is about taking a health issue and putting it into a political format; people see a problem and they perceive a solution. Whether or not the intended solution reaches a goal will remain to be seen.

There are plenty of feel-good programs in existence already. With garbage for example, an emphasis has been put into recycling and then people end up paying more for their bill because now people are using less and recycling more which raises costs.

But this is San Francisco. This is a city that says no to sugar—tax it—and yes to handing out needles in parks to drug users.

This is about politics—not necessarily health.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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