Sugar battle heating up for 2017

The year 2016 was a milestone in the movement to curb sugar, and last year’s gains are starting to bear fruit in 2017.  Philadelphia’s sweetened beverage tax took effect on January 1st and the city used the revenue to launch its pre-K program with more than 2,000 children enrolled at 90 locations.  Big Soda had used the courts to try and this kill effort but a judge dismissed the lawsuit “in its entirety”.  That decision is currently under appeal.

Santa Fe, NM is also looking to fund early education with a tax on sugary drinks, which Mayor Javier Gonzales described as a “game-changer” for early childhood investment.  The 2-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks could fund these critical programs if the City Council agrees in March to a special election in May and voters approve the measure. Meanwhile, tax bills have been dropped in state legislatures in Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Texas, with others expected. 

Howard_Co_ad.jpgThe year 2016 was a milestone in the movement to curb sugar, and last year’s gains are starting to bear fruit in 2017.  Philadelphia’s sweetened beverage tax took effect on January 1st and the city used the revenue to launch its pre-K program with more than 2,000 children enrolled at 90 locations.  Big Soda had used the courts to try and this kill effort but a judge dismissed the lawsuit “in its entirety”.  That decision is currently under appeal.

Santa Fe, NM is also looking to fund early education with a tax on sugary drinks, which Mayor Javier Gonzales described as a “game-changer” for early childhood investment.  The 2-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks could fund these critical programs if the City Council agrees to a special election in March and voters approve the measure.

More soda tax efforts have bubbled up at the state level as lawmakers look to save lives and fill gaping budget holes. A penny-per-ounce tax for Illinois was considered as part of the budget grand bargain but special interests appear to have blocked the deal.  Lawmakers in West Virginia have been asked to increase the tax on sugary drinks to at least 1 cent per ounce. Meanwhile, tax bills have been dropped in state legislatures in Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, and Texas, with others expected. 

Meanwhile, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Praxis Project have filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association for engaging “in false and misleading marketing of sugar-sweetened beverages.” It also takes aim at the “distribution of deceptive statements about the science of sugar sweetened beverages.” Attorneys have pointed out that, like with the tobacco litigation, discovery will be very valuable for the plaintiffs in accessing documents. The lawsuit may also impact public opinion about Coca-Cola’s brand.

A new youth campaign underwritten by Maryland’s Horizon Foundation kicked off this month and employs anti-tobacco tactics against the soda industry. The campaign is dubbed #BevRev and is airing ads in the Baltimore and Howard County, MD markets.  Glenn Schneider, a veteran of the tobacco wars who is now chief program officer at the Horizon Foundation, said of the campaign:

“We see #BevRev as analogous to what the truth campaign directed at the tobacco industry. It will clear out the fog of misleading soda advertising and replace it with facts that can help consumers — especially young consumers — make healthier drink choices.”

2017 is already shaping up to be a critical year in the movement to bring sugar back to healthy levels. To stay up to date on what’s happening with taxes on sugary drinks and other efforts to curb sugar, join the movement at healthyfoodamerica.org.


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