Soda Tax in California
The issue of soda tax, or the implementation of rules that guide the soft drinks industry in terms of guiding the consumer on the content of the soda which often is at the expense of the manufacturer, is not new to California. New York City had a similar bill that was passed but later on shelved due to a court ruling that favored the soft drinks manufacturers who pressed for a ruling out of the directive as unconstitutional. There were three consecutive appeals that failed hence the hopes for that regulation that banned sale of big size bottles of soda among other regulations seem to fizzle out flat (Matias C., 2014).
It is the same spirit as that of Bloomberg in New York that state senator Bill Monning has put forth a proposal that would require the sugary drinks for instance the sports drinks that are sugary, sodas, fruits drinks among others to prominently display the labels warning the consumers of the possible health risks that they were predisposing themselves to by consuming that drink which has added sugar. Upon implantation, California will be the first state to ever pass and implement this law in the entire U.S. since New York was unable to implement the similar legislation due to the court battles that saw it thrown out.
Essentially, the bill will not cost the tax payer any money hence it will be a tax on the beverage companies since they would be responsible for printing the label on the bottles and cans or any other packaging material that they will be using to distribute the drinks with added sugar. The basic argument for the proposition of the bill and the accompanying support from various quarters in the Californian community is that the added sugar in the sodas are largely responsible for causing health risks and diseases like diabetes and obesity among others. These are diseases that costs the state and the federal government a lot of money to deal with hence the printing of the information warning of the health risks as well as the content of the bottle will help sensitize the consumers and once they are aware, there will be a reduction of the number of people drinking these soft drinks and the regulation of the amount that they will be drinking, hence the lowering of possible health risks and diseases and factually lowering the extended cost of care to the federal govern (Sterten R., 2014). Monning notes that there are more that 40% of the children and more than 60% of the adults in California who are overweight, and tied to this is the 43% of the added calories in American diet originating from sugary drinks. California Center for Public Health Advocacy indicates that there is an increase of the chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes in California. These health cases costs the state a whole $41 billion annually. Further, the World Health Organization came up with findings which stated that drinking a bottle of soda a day will significantly increase by 27% the consumer’s likelihood of being overweight for the adults and by 55% if the consumer is a child.
It is significant to note that this is not the first time that Monning, a renowned health advocate for a long time, is putting forth a control proposal on the sodas. In 2013, there was a similar attempt to have a legislation that would see the sugary drinks take up a 1-cent-per-ounce tax. This was also meant to control the amount of ounces of sugar that went into the sodas and other soft drinks. That legislation, despite being well drafted and having the support of many civil education campaigners, it stalled dead at the committee stage in the legislature (McGreevy P., 2013).
Just before this above attempt by Monning that failed, there was yet another attempted regulation of the sugary beverage industry in 2012 within California. This involved the cities of El Monte and Richmond who voted on whether or not to impose a tax on the sugary beverages, both cities voted against the idea of imposing this particular tax. In early November 2014, the cities of San Francisco and Berkeley also voted for the proposed special tax of a penny-per-ounce on the sugar sweetened beverages including the energy drinks and sodas and juices. Voters in San Francisco once more shot down this proposal by failing to raise the required two-thirds support for the proposition. However, things looked different in Berkeley with a convincing passing of the proposal hence being the first U.S. city to pas such a measure against the soft drinks, the implementation and the subsequent possible legal battles are yet to be seen. The soft drinks companies like the Coca-cola Co., PepsiCo Inc., DrPepper Snapple Group Inc. have spent well over $100 million in defeating legislations such as this that was passed in Berkeley over a long period of time, dating back to 2009, with more than 24 cities that have attempted to implement such rules to no avail since then (Esterl M., 2014).
This attempt to pass and implement the tax on sugared soft drinks would not go without significant challengers to the course. CalBev are known to be the political wing of the soda industry in California. It is a lobbying group pro — the soft drinks industry in California that has already posited that the printing of the warning label on the packages and containers is not necessary and illegal. In their argument, they say that the soft drinks do not significantly affect the health of the people in California and the U.S. In general since it is only 4% of the calories found in an average American diet that is extracted from the soft drinks (Calefati J., 2014).
The finer details that the consumer will be seeing are such as the warning labels on the beverages that have sweeteners with 75 calories or more per 12 fluid ounces in them. These warning labels will also be required on the self serve soda dispensers common in the fast food restaurants as well as the soda dispensing units where the soda dispenser is behind the counter like is the case in the movie theatres among other venues. It is also worth noting that in restaurants where clients would be sitting in for a meal, the warning sign might be printed on the menu. The exact wordings of the warning signs that would be printed on these containers once the implementation stage starts would read; “State of California Safety Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contribute to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.” This law is expected to take effect as from July 1st, 2015 and the changes will be observed over time to see the impact of this legislation. However, as it has happened elsewhere, there are expected contentions in court.
This piece of legislation in California is seen as a significant step towards educating the consumers on the products that they consume on a daily basis and also warning them of the dire consequences. The soft drinks now join the other products like alcoholic drinks and tobacco in carrying the warning signs on their packaging. This step is seen simply an educative step that is not targeted at bringing under any industry that significantly contributes to the revenue of the U.S., but even after the education, the consumers will still have to make the choice hence the proponents do not see it as a mischievous step. The educational step has been widely claimed to have been informed by the overwhelming scientific researches and report diseases such as obesity and diabetes as well as tooth decay, most pointing at the added sugar found in the soft drinks (Bernstein S, 2014).
What remain now are the expected implications of the passing of such a legation in California. The effect and influence that this step will have throughout the U.S. cannot be undermined since this is the most populous state in the entire nation. The sheer fact that such a large population saw it wise to pass such a bill will inspire other regions that have rejected similar measures to rethink their stand and follow the example set by the state of California. This halo effect of this measure could be further exacerbated by the sheer magnitude of the economy of California that will most likely influence other smaller economies to follow suit and require safety labels in order to protect their economies too.
Calefati J., (2014). Health warning labels proposed for sodas, other sugary drinks sold in California. San Francisco Mercury News. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_25137374/health-warning-labels-proposed-sodas-other-sugary-drinks
Bernstein S, (2014). California lawmaker proposes warning labels for sugary drinks. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from http://www.businessinsider.com/r-california-lawmaker-proposes-warning-labels-for-sugary-drinks-2014-13
Esterl M., (2014). Berkeley Voters Approve Tax on Sugary Drinks. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from http://online.wsj.com/articles/berkeley-voters-approve-tax-on-sugary-drinks-san-francisco-ban-falls-short-1415189224
Matias C., (2014). New York City’s Soda Ban Fizzles Out For Good. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/26/soda-ban-new-york-struck-down-bloomberg_n_5533197.html
McGreevy P., (2013). Soda tax is among 2,189 bills introduced by California lawmakers. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/26/local/la-me-pc-soda-tax-20130225
Sterten R., (2014). Should California Put Warning labels on Sugary Drinks? Retrieved November 28, 2014 from https://civinomics.com/initiative/4T2m/should-california-put-warning-labels-on-sugary-drinks/show/
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