Bay Area and Boulder voters say yes to a soda tax

Voters in Boulder and the Bay Area just said a resounding YES to a tax on sugary drinks. The ballot measures were approved by wide margins yesterday in San Francisco (62% in favor), Oakland (61%), Albany, CA (71%) and Boulder, CO (54%). These four cities join Berkeley, CA, where voters approved the nation’s first tax on sugary drinks in 2014, and Philadelphia, whose mayor and council adopted one in June. 

As we put it in our statement, “Despite the billions spent on marketing and more than $30 million in deceitful campaign ads, voters saw the truth and sent a clear message that their families’ health comes first – thanks to an incredible, neighbor-to-neighbor grassroots campaign led by passionate and effective local advocates and support from Michael Bloomberg and Laura and John Arnold that helped level the playing field.”


“This vote is an historic turning point in the effort to bring sugar back to healthy levels. Interest in this issue was soaring even before this key victory – we’ve heard from 12 cities and six states seriously considering a tax on sugary drinks in 2017. Now we expect many more places to act to tax an unhealthy product to raise revenue to promote health and other community priorities, reduce diabetes rates and give an edge to the products that are better for their health. They now know they can beat Big Soda and adopt a sound, science-based policy to benefit their communities.”

It’s estimated the four measures that passed yesterday would bring in a combined revenue of $26 million per year. They will also extend thousands of lives and cut diabetes and obesity rates while saving more than $60 million in healthcare costs over the next decade.

Berkeley’s tax has already raised about $2 million directed toward community health programs, while researchers found a 21% reduction in consumption of sugary beverages by low-income residents since the tax.

Philadelphia’s tax is expected to provide universal preschool for all of the city’s 4-year olds, among other benefits. It is also expected to save lives with projected healthcare savings averaging $200 million.

News coverage on the eve of the vote highlighted what was at stake:

The strong ground game was described in Politico:

“Both sides of the tax fight have amassed small armies of paid phone bankers and canvassers, operations that have directly reached well over 200,000 people, though the pro-tax effort appears to have a much larger and more enthusiastic ground game.

Some of the young people working for the campaign are already familiar with the political playbook after having worked on the successful Berkeley tax effort. And many also have a personal connection to the issue.”

The pro-soda tax campaigns in the Bay Area and Boulder also held highly visible “get out the vote” drives.  They found many voters were angry about Big Soda’s lies and dirty tricks which made them ripe to vote against the campaigns backed by Coca Cola and Pepsi.

The results speak for themselves:

  • In a devastating blow to the beverage industry, 4 cities passed soda taxes: "This is an astonishing repudiation of big soda. For too long, the big soda companies got away with putting profits over their customers’ health," said Jim Krieger, the executive director of Healthy Food America. "That changed tonight."
  • Boulder becomes nation's second to vote in a soda tax: "We have won a major victory for the health of our community and all our children," said Angelique Espinoza, campaign manager of Healthy Boulder Kids, the group behind the 2H measure. "Big Soda pulled out all the stops in its effort to prevent the tax from being passed, but Boulder stood up for our kids.."
  • S.F., Oakland, Albany voters pass soda tax: John Maa, a doctor and secretary of the San Francisco Medical Society and a major supporter of soda taxes, said the mere presence of the measures on the ballot was a victory.

“Not only does it signify the movement is gathering energy, but it also raises awareness,” he said. “As we’ve seen in Berkeley, every time these efforts win, it leads to a reduction in soda consumption and, most importantly, it makes the public aware of the health hazards of sugar-sweetened beverages.”

  • Soda Taxes Approved in Four Cities, Vote Looms in Chicago’s Cook County: The trickle of soda taxes is becoming a stream.  Voters in San Francisco, Oakland and nearby Albany Calif. approved Tuesday a penny-per-ounce levy on nonalcoholic drinks with caloric sweeteners affecting everything from cola to sports drinks and ice tea to energy drinks. In Boulder CO, residents approved a ballot measure calling for a tax of two cents per ounce.

And the week isn’t over. Cook County’s board of commissioners—representing five million people in Chicago and surrounding suburbs—is expected to vote Thursday on a penny-per-ounce tax that also would include beverages with zero-calorie sweeteners like diet soda.

Will Cook County IL continue the momentum and join Boulder and the Bay Area with a yes vote on a sweetened beverage tax this week? The board is scheduled to vote on Thursday so we could end the week with another win for health. Follow us for the latest news and you’ll be one of the first to know.


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