Berkeley Becomes First U.S. City To Pass Sugary Soda Tax

American Beverage Association downplays vote

Berkeley, Calif., was the first city in the U.S. to tax sugary drinks, while its neighbor San Francisco rejected a similar measure on yesterday’s ballot.

Berkeley voters overwhelmingly approved Measure D, which charges an extra penny per ounce on sweetened drinks like soda. Diet sodas and alcohol will not be taxed. NPR reported the tax will add about $1 million a year to city coffers, which will go toward a city health panel.

"We're saying no to Big Soda," Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates told The Associated Press. "We're saying that Berkeley and the rest of the country need to pay attention that soda is such a destructive product."

The Los Angeles Times reported that The American Beverage Association spent $2.4 million to try to stop the measure from passing. Supporters of the tax said it would educate consumers about how sugary drinks contribute to serious health problems, including diabetes and obesity.

Similar anti-soda laws have failed in dozens of cities, including a highly publicized campaign by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to restrict the size of sugary drinks.

Christopher Gindlesperger, a spokesman for The American Beverage Association, told the BBC that "Berkeley doesn't look like mainstream America. If politicians in the country want to stake their reputations on what Berkeley is doing, they will do so at their own risk."