Health Advocates At Odds With Small Business Owners Over Bay Area Soda Tax Measures
BERKELEY (KCBS)— San Francisco and Berkeley both have soda tax measures on their ballots in next week’s election. Propositions E and D, respectively have been referred to as a “David and Goliath” battle because of the $10 million pushback from the beverage industry.
Proponents of a soda tax point to rising diabetes and obesity rates and say that’s why people need to consume less but before it gets in your stomach, its goes through your mouth and that’s actually the first casualty.
At the Native American Health Center in San Francisco’s Mission, Dental Hygenist Michael LaFlamme can see the soda drinkers coming.
“When they smile all the gum line is decayed. And you ask them if they drink soda and they think you’re Houdini because you’ve figured it out. We know where the soda sits so we know where to expect the cavities. We know what they’re doing. We know what their habit it is,” LaFlamme said. “We want to change their behavior. They say this is going to hurt grocery bills. It’s not going to hurt your grocery bill if you stop buying soda. That’s really what we want.”
His patient, 27-year-old Esmerelda Vega doesn’t let her kids drink soda, but her husband is addicted, 24 cans in three days. In Spanish, Vega explains he only drinks Coke.
San Francisco’s Prop. E would slap a two-cent an ounce tax on sugary drinks raising $30 million a year for nutrition programs and potentially cut consumption by 31 percent.
In San Francisco the measure needs two-thirds approval to pass, in Berkeley it simply needs the majority.
In Berkeley, Measure D looks to impose a one-cent an ounce tax on soda. Martin Borque is head of Berkeley’s Ecology Center.
“Just like with tobacco, it wasn’t just the taxes that turned things around for smokers. It’s the education. It’s stigmatizing these things as negative for your health,” he said.
Getting people to drink water instead of water instead of cheap soda, but as the American Beverage Industry pumps $10 million into defeating both campaigns, caught in the middle are small business owners who say they’re being lumped in with big soda.
“We produce Bette Jane’s Ginger Beer out of Healdsburg, California,” said Kirk Pearson. He was personally delivering an order to the Fizzary in San Francisco’s Mission, an upscale soda store.
“There’s no alcohol, but it’s produced as a mixer for cocktails,” Pearson said.
Still, his $3 product would get taxed the same, raising the price of his bottles 24 cents and potentially driving away customers.
He thinks the soda tax is too far reaching. Soda taxes have been defeated in other cities across the country.
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