Philly soda tax gets its day in court as judges consider beverage industry suit

Four months into collecting its tax on sweetened beverages, the city of Philadelphia was in court Wednesday battling the beverage industry over whether it has the right to do so. Meanwhile, thousands of kids await pre-K slots and aging rec centers continue to crumble as the city holds off investing $300 million leveraged by the tax until the judges rule. 

The hearing in Pittsburgh before the Commonwealth Court, a statewide appellate court responsible for cases involving local governments, lasted about an hour. (Even as the hearing was under way, Philly residents were having a field day razzing Pepsi for it’s ill-conceived Kendall Jenner ad and cheap-shot tactics against their soda tax.)

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Is soda consumption headed up or down? Our new research brief tracks the trends

Healthy Food America today released Trends in Sugary Drinks Consumption in the US, 2005-2012, a research brief analyzing the four most recent waves of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), from 2005-2012. NHANES is the best available comprehensive source of national data on beverage consumption; 2012 is the most recent full data set available publicly, though CDC in January issued a partial

Reports of Big Soda’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, based on Healthy Food America’s new research brief. Recent media stories have focused on soda consumption falling and bottle water rising to become the most popular beverage in America. While that may be cause for some celebration, focusing on the decline of soda oversimplifies how the sugary drink landscape has changed.  There are many more types of sugary drink products now on the market– and we still consume historically high quantities. 

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Great new tool helps cities and states estimate revenue from sugary drink taxes

For the first time, localities of all sizes will be able to estimate potential revenue from a sugary drinks tax under a range of scenarios, thanks to a newly upgraded online calculator.

The update to the Revenue Calculator for Sugary Drink Taxes was a collaborative effort by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at UConn, where it is housed, and Healthy Food America. To create revenue models for all 50 states and 40 cities, researchers used the most recent 2015 proprietary industry data on regional beverage sales. Cities range in size from huge -- like Los Angeles -- to smaller cities, such as Sunnyvale, CA, so that policymakers in those cities, as well as in cities of similar size, can ballpark what a "soda" tax would bring in.

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Webinar: Insights on soda tax victories from their political strategists

Are you working to pass a tax on sugary drinks in your community, considering whether to pursue one, or counseling others on how to get one adopted? Do you want to learn what it took to field and win tax campaigns? This one-hour webinar, recorded March 23, 2017, is for you.

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Is 100% juice as bad as soda? Read our journal article to find out

This is a summary of the findings of an HFA-commissioned survey of research into the health effects of 100% fruit juice, appearing in the April 2017 issue of Pediatriacs, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Read the article online here.

The question of whether 100% fruit juice causes poor health outcomes in children, such as weight gain, has been a subject of controversy.

On one hand, 100% fruit juice contains vitamins and nutrients that many children lack, is often cheaper than whole fruit, and may help kids with limited access to healthy food meet their daily fruit requirements. On the other, leading nutrition experts have expressed concern that fruit juice contains amounts of sugar equal to or greater than those of sugary drinks like regular soda. 

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As Seattle joins the parade, soda tax news keeps coming

Amid a flurry of other tax-related news, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced Feb. 21 that he would champion a sugary drinks levy to raise $16 million a year to reduce the “opportunity gap” between the city’s white students and students of color.

Murray said he would likely take the proposal for a tax of two cents per ounce to the City Council rather than the ballot. A few days later, a Seattle Times columnist mused about whether it was fair to omit diet drinks that are more favored by affluent and white consumers. Our take: The science is clear that sugar is harmful, but the evidence on diet drinks is inconclusive at best (read our review of the evidence here). 

In Philadelphia, meanwhile, Pepsi and other distributors are threatening to lay off workers in the face of what they claim is a 40-50 percent decline in sales of sweetened beverages since a 1.5-cent tax took effect Jan. 1. It seems unlikely that an effect of that size – if indeed the industry reports are true – would be sustained, and the jobs losses may never materialize. But industry groups are making serious political hay with the claims in the meantime.

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The facts on sugar and chronic disease: Four new tools to help you communicate the risks

Regular readers of this blog no doubt are familiar with the sour truth: Thanks to the sugar added to processed foods and drinks, American kids gobble up 70 percent more than their recommended “safe” limit each day. Adults consume 40 percent more.

When you alert people to these facts, they may ask, “What’s the harm?” Well, now you have something to hand them, thanks to four new fact sheets developed by our crack research team. 

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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. 

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Looking back on a milestone year in the movement to curb sugar

Wow. What a groundbreaking year for the movement to bring sugar back to healthy levels!  At the start of 2016, Berkeley CA was the only community in the United States with a tax on sugary drinks. We ended the year with six more, after every proposed tax went on to adoption, whether by ballot (four) or legislation (two).

Consumers also won a huge victory this year when the Food and Drug Administration finally approved a requirement that processed foods list grams of added sugars on nutrition labels, along with the percentage of the recommended daily maximum they represent.

It was the year when both news and social media caught a sugar buzz, as new awareness came to light about the health harms from sugar and industry efforts to pooh-pooh it. 

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Adopting soda taxes in 21 major cities could save thousands of lives and $1.2 billion in health care costs over 10 years, Harvard model projects

Taxing sugary drinks in America’s cities could save and extend the lives of millions of Americans while averting vast sums in health costs and raising millions of dollars for local communities, according to an analysis of six adopted and 15 theoretical taxes in America’s largest cities.

After ten years, a tax of one cent per ounce in those 21 jurisdictions would reach 23.5 million people with health benefits including declining rates of diabetes, nearly 60,000 fewer cases of obesity, nearly 4,000 fewer premature deaths, and avoided health care costs of over $1.2 billion. The sugary drink levies would raise nearly $1 billion each year for investment in improving communities and promoting health, according to the report, “Raising revenue, cutting costs, saving lives: The benefits of sugary drink taxes in America’s major cities.”

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