Does your city have a soda tax? Perhaps it should consider one.
This past election saw two Californian cities, Richmond and El Monte, vote on soda-tax ballot measures. Richmond’s Measure N would have imposed a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The measure would have raised millions in cash-strapped city with a high obesity rate. A companion measure, Measure O, asked if the funds should be spent on “sports and health education programs aimed at local youths.”
The reasons for the tax is clear:
Children would have been the biggest beneficiaries of the measure. The soda tax would have helped children learn about nutrition so they could have made better decisions, and hopefully stopped lethal cycles of unhealthy eating passed down by their parents. About 50 percent of all children in Richmond are obese or overweight and 70 percent of them will most likely be unhealthy as adults. With statistics like these, supporters of the soda tax felt that drastic measures had to be taken.
Of course, the soda companies poured millions into defeating the measures. Richmond’s Measure N got just 33% of the vote. El Monte’s measure did even worse. Despite the electoral defeat, proponents aren’t giving up. They are promising to return in 2014 — and not just in Richmond.
Proponents of the soda tax are in it for the long-haul, and have good reason to be optimistic. The economy has devastated city finances, making the soda tax an attractive revenue source. And if the tax addresses a health epidemic, that sweetens (no pun intended) the deal.
Thus, I think it inevitable that cities enact soda taxes — and this presents a new opportunity for bike/ped advocates to fund projects.
We already know that cities with good bike and ped infrastructure have much lower obesity rates. If a city levies a soda tax as an anti-obesity measure, then there is strong argument to be made that some of the windfall go towards things like bike and ped infrastructure, and safe-routes-to-school programs.