Supervisors Eric Mar

Supervisors Eric Mar

Second San Francisco pol takes aim at sugary beverages with tax proposal

There appears to be a strong will at City Hall to take on the beverage industry over sugar-laden soft drinks and their deleterious health effects – so strong in fact that two San Francisco politicians are now squaring off over the issue.

A day after Supervisor Scott Wiener announced plans to levy a two-cent per ounce tax on soft drinks, Supervisor Eric Mar – author of The City's notorious restriction on toys in fast-food kids meals – unveiled his own proposal.

The second measure means there will be two political brouhahas in San Francisco: one at the ballot box in 2014 and one in City Hall over which measure gets to advance to the showdown with a beverage industry that spent heavily last year to defeat similar efforts in the cities of Richmond and El Monte.

The two proposed taxes are alike in that they both would impose the same two-cent per ounce levy on soda distributors, require two-thirds voter approval, and funnel revenue to nutrition and exercise efforts.

The tax would apply to any drink with added sugar – including drinks with fruit juice concentrates and high-fructose corn syrup – that has more than 25 calories per 12 ounce serving.

Consumption of such drinks has been linked to obesity and diabetes by health officials who say that just one 12 ounce can of soda has more sugar than an adult should consume in a day.

Both politicians agree that soda is hazardous to children's health, but Wiener and Mar differ on where the tax revenue would go.

Wiener's plan divvies the cash – up to $31 million annually, he estimated – between the Recreation and Park Department, the Department of Public Health and the San Francisco Unified School District.

Mar's also divides funds into threes, between health education efforts in The City's poorer neighborhoods, physical education and exercise initiatives, and a push for healthy food access in poorer neighborhoods and in schools.

In other words, they're very similar, Wiener said.

“We both have the same goals, just slightly different visions,” he said, adding that eventually only one measure will advance past the board and onto the ballot.

Both supervisors said they have been toying with the idea of a soda tax for some time.

In September, Mar asked the board's legislative analyst to figure out exactly how much a toll sugar-sweetened drink consumption takes on The City's health care system. The report is pending.

A measure needs approval from a majority of the Board of Supervisors to make the ballot.

There are two ballots next year on which a measure could appear: the June primary or the November general election.

If a measure makes it to voters and is approved, San Francisco would be the first city in the U.S. to successfully tax soda sales.

A ban on sales of soft drinks 16 ounces or larger pushed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was rejected by the courts shortly before it was to take effect.

And industry representative the American Beverage Association poured $2.6 million into defeating Richmond's plan to place a one-cent per ounce tax on soft drinks last year.

“It will be a food fight, but we'll win,” Mar said.

Bay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsPoliticsSan FranciscoScott Wienersoda tax

Just Posted

Ahmad Ibrahim Moss, a Lyft driver whose pandemic-related unemployment benefits have stopped, is driving again and relying on public assistance to help make ends meet. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
How much does gig work cost taxpayers?

Some drivers and labor experts say Prop. 22 pushed an undue burden on to everyday taxpayers.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who visited the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 6 headquarters on Recall Election Day, handily won after a summer of political high jinks.	<ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Lessons from a landslide: Key takeaways from California’s recall circus

‘After a summer of half-baked polls and overheated press coverage, the race wasn’t even close’

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents in the U.S. (Shutterstock)
Why California teens need mental illness education

SB 224 calls for in-school mental health instruction as depression and suicide rates rise

The Kimpton Buchanan Hotel in Japantown could become permanent supportive housing if The City can overcome neighborhood pushback. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Nimbytown: Will SF neighborhoods allow vacant hotels to house the homeless?

‘We have a crisis on our hands and we need as many options as possible’

Most Read