Voters in Berkeley, California passed a historical measure earlier this week when they voted in favor of the first-ever soda tax in America, which will see sugary soft drinks taxed in response to their reputation for being high in calories and bad for your health. According to Forbes, Measure D, as it’s known locally, will levy a one cent per ounce tax on all sugar-sweetened beverages and flavored drinks, bumping the average price of a can of soda in Berkeley up by a total of 12 cents – and a two liter bottle up by 68 cents.
Forbes notes that the measure needed a two-thirds majority vote to pass, and despite 2.3 million dollars worth of local campaigning on the part of Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper/Snapple, the measure passed successfully in Berkeley with 75 percent of the vote.
“This is absolutely historic, and I think it portends what you will later see happening across the country,” obesity expert and dean of Duke University’s Sandford School of Public Policy, Kelly Brownell told the Los Angeles Times. “It mirrors what happened with tobacco taxes, when the industry spent a huge amount of money and won the initial skirmishes before losing in places like Berkeley.”
According to UC San Francisco epidemiologist and biostatistician, Kirsten Bibbens-Domingo, computer models show that a one cent per ounce tax such as Berkeley’s would most likely help stop a quarter million new cases of diabetes every year in the United States. Within a decade a national soda tax could also help stave off 100,000 cases of heart disease, 8,000 strokes and save 26,000 lives. “The first municipality to pass a soda tax is a very big deal,” Bibbens-Domingo told the Los Angeles Times. “This has the potential to be a tipping point.”