Soda, Death and Taxes

By Brittney Saline

In Nutrition

March 04, 2016

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With treatment of chronic disease eating up health-care budgets, elected officials consider excise taxes to reduce consumption of harmful sugary beverages.

On Nov. 4, 2014, 76 percent of voters made Berkeley, California, the first U.S. city to pass a soda tax. After its implementation in March, the tax generated just shy of US$700,000 in revenue in its first six months.

Berkeley City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli helped spearhead the measure. At first, he saw the tax as little more than a revenue source. Then he saw a YouTube presentation on the toxicity of sugar by Dr. Robert Lustig, pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California-San Francisco.

In his 2013 book, “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food and Obesity,” Lustig discussed findings from his 2013 study on the relationship between sugar and diabetes prevalence across 154 countries over a 10-year period, during which worldwide diabetes prevalence rose from 5.5 to 7 percent.

“Every additional 150 calories per person per day barely raised diabetes prevalence,” Lustig wrote. “But if those 150 calories were instead from a can of soda, increase in diabetes prevalence rose sevenfold.”

Soda, energy drinks and sports drinks account for 36 percent of added-sugar intake in Americans, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

“The science is in, I believe, and so I pivoted from looking for sources of revenue to looking for ways to, in fact, reduce consumption of what I consider to be a toxic substance,” Capitelli said.

As Americans get sicker—rates of both obesity and metabolic syndrome are pushing 35 percent in adults—Berkeley’s landmark legislation leaves the rest of the country wondering: Could taxes turn the trend around?

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4 Comments on “Soda, Death and Taxes”


wrote …

Poor big soda... and just to think, all you had to do was back out of the health sciences. All you had to do was get out of where it didn't belong. Now look where it's got you.


wrote …

The fault isn't in "big soda". Its in the education of the population. If the population is educated on the risks of their lifestyle and still choose to partake in said choice, that is not the soda company's fault. Crossfit believes it can have an impact in everyone's life. This can't be the case but crossfit still believes it and pushes its brand into every nook it can. This simple business and it is what makes America. Taxing soda will be as effective as taxing anything else. Those who want it will still get it and in the end all that was done was line the pockets of politicians who pretended to care.


replied to comment from Tank Davis

You might be right Tank. But the way I see it is that big soda both encourages and promotes an unhealthy addiction. And even when soda gets taxed, it might not stop people from putting down more money for it. As for CrossFit, I don't think their goal was ever to put taxes on soda. Their goal from the start was to remove big soda from the health sciences and put a warning label on it. Others took notice, got involved, and now big soda is being taxed.


wrote …

I can get on board with that. I just know that just because I care passionately about something (like what I eat and drink) doesnt mean others do. I also would like to think that if others understood the impact they would make the same choices we do.

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