San Francisco supervisors propose sugary beverage tax

Glass of cola

San Francisco may soon be the next major city to mull a new tax on sugary beverages sold locally.

CBS San Francisco reports that two San Francisco supervisors are proposing separate measures that would add an additional tariff on drinks with high sugar content.

Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced a proposal on Tuesday that would add a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sodas and sugary drinks. If approved by the board and the city's mayor, the measure would potentially go on the November 2014 ballot for voters to decide on.

Supervisor Eric Mar also said on Tuesday that he plans to suggest another ballot measure that would also add a 2 cents per ounce tax on sugary beverages.

Wiener told CBS San Francisco that he believed drinking sugary beverages fuels obesity, which in turn is increasing rates of Type 2 diabetes and other health issues.

"We must act aggressively to address this epidemic," Wiener said.

About 35.7 percent of the adult U.S. population is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Studies have linked drinking sugary beverages like soda during childhood to obesity problems later in life.

If Wiener's measure gets approved, the revenue would go toward funding nutritional and recreational programs in the city schools and parks, with a special focus on low-income neighborhoods with high sugary drink consumption rates. Mar's measure on the other hand gives money gained from the tax to area communities with the highest Type 2 diabetes rates.

Mar said he hopes to combine the two measures into one proposal, CBS San Francisco reported.

Californians for Food and Beverage Choice, which is a part of the industry group the American Beverage Association, pointed out that Californians have rejected similar measures before because they are "unnecessary, wasteful distractions from serious policymaking."

"Providing people with education, opportunities for physical activity and diverse beverage choices to fit their lifestyles are proven strategies for maintaining health," the group wrote in a statement. "Just last November, voters in the California cities of El Monte and Richmond said as much by soundly defeating proposed taxes on the sale of sugar- sweetened beverages -- with 76 percent and 67 percent, respectively, voting 'no.'"

Mar said he wasn't surprised that there would be a "a food fight with the beverage industry" over the measures.

Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a UCSF professor of medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics, told the San Francisco Chronicle that her research has shown that a tax as little as a one cent may make a huge dent in the health epidemic caused by excess sugar.

"We concluded that adding a penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages could potentially prevent 240,000 cases of diabetes per year, and additionally avoid 100,000 cases of heart disease, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 deaths over the next decade," she said.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg had previously proposed a ban on selling sodas larger than 16 ounces at local restaurants, fast food chains, delis, sports venues, movie theaters and street vendor carts that fall under the regulation of the city's health department. The law was set to go into effect in March 2013, but New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling ruled the law unconstitutional because of several loopholes in the regulation that may be arbitrary, including the fact that milk-based drinks would get an exemption at restaurants and sugary drinks sold at grocery and convenience stores were not subject to the same restrictions.

The New York City proposal's legality continues to be battled in courts, CBS New York reports.