(Reuters) - An effort to
combat obesity by placing an extra tax on sugary drinks
was proposed by the California city of Berkeley on
Tuesday, bringing a proposal similar to others that have
failed in cities across the U.S. one step closer to the
Officials in the liberal college town on Tuesday evening set July 1
for a vote on whether to include such a measure on the citywide
ballot after a survey of 500 likely voters showed majority support.
"Our residents are highly educated on this issue and highly
supportive of any measure that can help fight child onset diabetes
and other tragic, preventable and costly diet-related illnesses,"
said Martin Bourque, who directs the Berkeley Ecology Center, which
has campaigned to get the soda tax measure on this autumn's ballot.
A similar measure is under consideration in nearby San Francisco.
Public health advocates across the country have clamored for ways to
reduce consumption of sugary drinks and junk food, but lawmakers and
voters have generally opposed enacting taxes or other regulations.
Two California cities, Richmond and El Monte, failed two years ago
in their attempts to become the first in the country to impose taxes
of a penny per ounce on businesses that sell sugary drinks. A
similar measure failed in the California Legislature last year.
In late May, lawmakers in Illinois also rejected a measure that
would have taxed soda, and an effort by former New York Mayor
Michael Bloomberg to ban the largest sugary drink sizes was
overturned by a state judge.
A bill to put warning labels on sugary drinks passed the California
state Senate on May 29.
The Berkeley measure would require support from two-thirds of voters
to pass. City council members are considering drafting the
initiative to funnel revenue from the tax either into the city's
general fund or into local health programs. That aspect was not
discussed at the council meeting on Tuesday.
Efforts to curtail consumption of sugary drinks through taxes and
other efforts have met fierce resistance from the U.S. food and
"Another tax is the last thing that Berkeley businesses and families
need," said Roger Salazar, a spokesman for CalBev, which represents
beverage companies throughout the state.
(Reporting by Jennifer Chaussee in Berkeley, Calif., Editing by
Sharon Bernstein and Peter Cooney)