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Strategic Alliance Rapid Response: October 30, 2013

The beat goes on: San Francisco offers a new opportunity to make the case for a soda tax in CA

This week, San Francisco City Supervisor Scott Wiener announced plans to introduce a ballot measure that would place a two-pennies-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks to fund health, nutrition and activity programs for San Francisco youth. If approved by the Board of Supervisors, the measure will go on the ballot in November 2014. This tax would raise an estimated $31 million to fund health programs in its first year alone.

The beverage industry is almost certain to fight the measure. Last year, the industry spent $4.2 million to defeat similar proposals in Richmond and El Monte, California. One key difference is that those measures didn’t specifically earmark the funds for health programs.

"I try to cross my t's and dot my i's, and I wouldn't pursue this if I didn't think it had a chance," Wiener told the San Francisco Chronicle. "There will be a big fight - the beverage industry will try to pull all the shenanigans they have pulled elsewhere - but we have a strong coalition behind this. San Francisco is always at the forefront of public health issues and trying to find innovative ways to keep the city healthy."

Now, advocates in San Francisco and across the state have an opportunity to join the conversation in support of the sugar-sweetened beverage tax. Through media advocacy, advocates can build momentum for the San Francisco initiative, and provide a strong counter-argument to the anti-tax arguments of Big Soda. Not only will our collective voice lend support to this latest proposal, it would add to the growing chorus of advocates across the country calling for innovative policies to curb the harmful impact of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Here are some of the news stories covering San Francisco’s soda tax proposal. This story is just breaking, so keep your eyes peeled for more coverage in the days ahead.

Here are some ways you can take action:

  • Respond to the coverage above or related news stories that you come across with an online comment, letter to the editor or Op-Ed. Check out Strategic Alliance's tips for penning a letter to the editor.
  • Connect with Strategic Alliance on Twitter (@Strat_Alliance) to share your efforts with us and get more updates on this issue. Please consider tweeting this alert to your followers: Stand up for #SF #soda tax proposal & check out new @Strat_Alliance media advocacy resource http://bit.ly/1hAFig8

Here are talking points to consider in shaping your letter to the editor or Op-Ed:

  • Sugar-sweetened beverage taxes save lives and money.
    Research suggests that a national penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would prevent 100,000 cases of heart disease, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 deaths in the first decade it was enacted. It would also save $17 billion in health-care related expenses while raising $13 billion in revenue, money that could be spent on improving health and wellbeing across the country—precisely what San Francisco has in mind.
  • Now is the time to fund vital community prevention efforts in San Francisco.
    The impact of chronic disease is taking a toll on San Francisco’s children and families. The sugar-sweetened beverage tax will act as a lifeline, providing an estimated $31 million in the first year for badly needed health, activity and nutrition programs.  With a tax in place, San Francisco can invest in parks and rec programs that get children moving, healthier school meals and quality PE, and increased access to healthy food in our neighborhoods that need it.  
  • Addressing sugar-sweetened beverages makes sense.
    The beverage industry uses highly trained psychologists and marketing experts to design and market products that get us hooked on sugar – and it’s working.  These beverages accounted for 43% of the increase in daily calories consumed between 1977 and 2001, and continue to be the largest source of added sugar in the average American’s diet. In spite of the evidence that these products are sabotaging health, a recent study found soda consumption is rising again among California teenagers. At two-pennies-per-ounce, San Francisco’s proposed tax would be a modest but effective deterrent, and a much-needed counterbalance to the aggressive marketing tactics of industry.
  • Soda companies shouldn’t undermine community priorities.
    Last year, the beverage industry spent millions to drown the soda tax proposal in Richmond, preserving their profit margins and maintaining the chronic disease status quo. Instead of letting the community make its own decision, the industry outspent grassroots efforts 35 to 1. We can’t let them do it again in San Francisco--there’s too much at stake.

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