Policy Profile: Berkeley, CA Sugary Drink Tax


  • In November, 2014, Berkeley, California waged a battle against Big Soda and won, making the city the first in the nation to pass an excise tax on sugary drinks, and paving the way for other US cities to follow its example.
  • Seventy-six percent of Berkeley voters said “yes” to the tax.
  • Revenues go to the general fund, but the measure created a panel of experts in child nutrition, health care, and education to advise the City Council on how to fund programs to improve child health.
  • Proponents organized a strong grassroots campaign
    • Strategically-named “Berkeley vs. Big Soda,” the campaign began in November of 2013 with the formation of the Berkeley Healthy Child Coalition. The coalition was run by a manager, with two prominent Berkeley residents as co-chairs.
    • Field staff and community volunteers went door-to-door to talk to voters, and gathered near-unanimous endorsements from health, community, education, and political organizations; the School Board; grocers and restaurateurs; and all 9 members of the Berkeley City Council.
  • A majority of voters supported the tax. In November 2014, 76% voted for the tax.


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