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Soda tax inches toward San Francisco ballot

CITY HALL — A “soda tax” tax may soon spill into San Francisco thanks to an impending ballot measure sponsored by a group of San Francisco supervisors.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, five supervisors voiced their support for a unified soda tax that would tax distributors .02 cents for every ounce of sugary beverage.

Supervisor Eric Mar — parent of a 13-year-old — voiced his support Tuesday, saying soda companies aggressively target teenagers in their ads:

“I know we can make history by passing this ballot measure in November. Nothing we do is more important than protecting our children’s health.”

Calling it a reasonable and responsible first step in mitigating the harm caused by “Big Soda” companies like Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper, Mar said he was concerned about rising obesity and diabetes rates:

“We’re going to fight back with science and community education. SF is not for sale and we will not allow you and your lobbyist to continue your decades of harming the health of our children.”

If passed, the tax is expected to raise approximately $30 million a year for The City. 40 percent would be earmarked for schools, 25 percent for parks, 25 percent for the Department of Public Health and 10 percent for community-based health groups.

Significant funds will also go towards providing alternatives to soda, like drinking fountains, and improving access to healthy foods in neighborhoods that need it most like the Bayview, Tenderloin and Chinatown, according to Mar.

The supervisors admitted they faced an uphill fight, noting similar bills have been defeated in New York, Richmond and El Monte, Calif.

If the measure receives a majority of votes from the supervisors it will be placed on the November ballot where it will need approval from two-thirds of voters in order to pass.

While stressing the broad coalition of soda tax supporters, Supervisor Scott Weiner drew a connection between the tax on tobacco products on the proposed sugar drink tax.

The measure now has backing from supervisors Wiener, Malia Cohen, John Avalos, David Chu and Eric Mar.

Additional supporters include the San Francisco Medical Society, California Medical Association, California Nurses Association, American Heart Association, SF Board of Education, San Francisco Parent Pact, the Trust for Public Land, according to Weiner:

“These beverages are giving people diabetes. This epidemic that is being fueled by sugary drinks is going to have direct fiscal consequences for our entire healthcare system and for the taxpayers of San Francisco.”

After reminding the board that February is Black History Month, Cohen said she hoped voters will listen to information about the ballot measure with an open heart and an open mind:

“It’s a life or death decision. When you look at the numbers as to who is being adversely affected by the targeted advertisement from the sugary beverage it is largely the African-American community.”

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