By Meghan Hunt, MPP Candidate 2017
This November, Oakland will ask voters to pass Measure HH, a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages. With this legislation, I am happy to see Oakland tackle this important public health issue. In communities across the Bay Area, we experience higher rates of obesity compared to the statewide average. But if we are going to fight obesity, Oakland residents must first fight Big Soda. Measure HH needs you to get involved.
Soda tax legislation is emerging across the US and beyond as an important tool to combat obesity. From Mexico City to Berkeley, early legislation is helping people reduce sugar consumption and develop healthier habits. The USDA found that taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages result in an average weight loss of 3.8 pounds for adults and 4.5 pounds for children in one year. And even those who aren’t obese benefit from the legislation. The Surgeon General estimates that Americans spend $117 billion annually to pay for increased insurance premiums and lower productivity associated with obesity. Soda taxes can help pay for health-related programs and the public burden of the disease.
But if Oakland is serious about taxing soda to fight obesity, we have a lot to learn from our neighbors. Berkeley, Richmond and San Francisco all faced major opposition from the American Beverage Association in their bids to tax soda. In Richmond, the ABA paid outside “community activists” to petition neighbors, spending $2.5 million in a local campaign against Measure N. In Berkeley, the ABA spent $3.4 million in advertisements, claiming the tax unfairly targeted the poor. Today, television commercials and mailings funded by the ABA are inundating Oakland residents, stating the measure will raise prices on all grocery items. While a new study by UC Berkeley found little evidence to support these claims, in both Richmond and San Francisco the misinformation ultimately killed these campaigns.
Berkeley has been the only city to successfully pass a soda tax in California. With only a quarter as much funding as the ABA, local organizers created a powerful public awareness campaign. Residents went door-to-door to discuss children’s health and fight misinformation about the legislation. For a tax to pass here, Oakland needs to do the same. To make sure our voices are heard in local elections, the Oakland vs. Big Soda campaign needs both donations and volunteers to support Measure HH. With powerful corporate opponents, it will take a community effort to fight obesity.
Join the movement at http://www.oaklandvsbigsoda.com/volunteer