California doctors respond to soda tax ban with new ballot measure

By Beth Newhart contact

- Last updated on GMT

Public health groups have dubbed the a ‘setback’ and a ‘new low’ for the beverage industry. Pic: ©GettyImages/hedgehog94
Public health groups have dubbed the a ‘setback’ and a ‘new low’ for the beverage industry. Pic: ©GettyImages/hedgehog94

Related tags: soda, Soda tax, California

Physicians and dentists are fighting back after California passed a statewide ban on soda taxes for the next 12 years.

The California Medical Association (CMA) and the California Dental Association (CDA) filed on July 2 a new ballot measure for the 2020 US election.

“The 2020 ballot initiative by CDA and CMA would implement a statewide tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, providing at least $1.7 billion in revenue for critical health programs and constitutionally preserving the ability of California’s local communities to make their own decisions regarding future soda taxes,” ​they said in a joint statement.

On June 28 California agreed to pass a ban on all new local soda taxes until 2031: driven by a campaign from the beverage industry. 

It was a controversial bill that ultimately only passed as a compromise. The beverage industry had initially promoted a different ballot measure funded for the November 2018 election that would make it harder to raise any local taxes in California. They agreed to pull it from consideration if the soda tax ban passed.

The public health sector has widely criticized the ban, calling it a ‘setback’ and a ‘new low’ for the beverage industry in an effort to avoid decreased soda consumption.

Berkeley, Calif. passed the first tax on sugary drinks in the US in 2014. Since then, other cities in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Colorado and Washington have passed, proposed and overturned similar laws.

The CMA and the CDA collectively represent more than 70,000 healthcare professionals in California. Dustin Corcoran, CMA chief executive officer, and Carrie Gordon, CDA chief strategy officer, cited in the a joint statement ‘overwhelming evidence’ that links sugary drinks with obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

“Big Soda may have won a cynical short-term victory but, for the sake of our children’s health, we cannot and will not allow them to undermine California’s long-term commitment to health care and disease prevention,”​ they said.

“Around the world and in local communities, reasonable soda taxes have been proven effective in dramatically reducing consumption of sugary drinks and improving the public health, especially among children.”

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