This past week in Berkeley, California, officials took a new issue to the ballots and Mike Livak was hoping the people would come out in droves. Elected officials took a stand against the soft drink industry. Officials proposed initiating a 1-cent tax per ounce on soft drinks. It was estimated, if this tax went through, it would decrease the amount of soda sales in Berkeley by 10 percent. Although this was a new issue taken to vote in Berkeley, it is an issue that has been circulating the country for some time now. It began with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York City.
Sugary soft drinks are the major cause of numerous diseases that are spreading rapidly across the country. Sadly, the proposal in Berkeley did not pass. However, this is all very similar to the battle officials have been fighting against the tobacco industry. Although tobacco is still widely sold in the United States, the number of people that smoke is on the decline and many stores are refusing to sell tobacco products. Education is the key! Let’s hope the trend continues and this is just the beginning of what is going to be a long, but worthwhile, battle against the soft drink industry.
The typical soft drink consists of carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, various natural or artificial flavorings, caffeine, artificial colors, and (in the case of diet drinks) artificial sugar substitute. We can only surmise that the new anti-soda political activists are not concerned about the caffeine since they do not appear to fight against coffee very hard, are not up in arms about pop’s artificial colors and flavors since those sorts of things are in a multitude of other foods on our grocery store shelves, nor certainly are they out against soda due to the carbonated water which is generally harmless.
After court setbacks in Chicago against Bloomberg’s anti-soda campaign and at other locales across the country, Berkeley, CA seems to be a “last stand” for the movement. The city council put a cent-per-ounce extra tax on all soda sold in the city, but now there is a referendum to repeal that law. The supporters of the law like to dress up the fight as one of “Big Sods” versus the American people, but most are inclined to see it as an invasion of the realm of their private choices and an excuse to raise taxes yet further in the midst of an already limping American economy.
While it is true that soda is the number one cause of obesity in the land, it is also true that high fructose corn syrup is so commonly used in American food products that Tom Rothman has called it a “U.S. staple food.” What about the candy makers? What about doughnut shops? Secondly, if the city is to start managing our diets in the name of “public health,” just what boundaries does government have? The big-brother total control of Orwell’s 1984 may have been 30 years too soon in its predictions, but how far off was the substance of those predictions when the city council even tells us what we can drink?