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Proposition E: Rush and Crash 

Tuesday, Oct 21 2014
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Who's Behind It: The Supervisor Scott Wiener-sponsored ordinance is heavily opposed by the American Beverage Association.

Who Stands to Benefit: Kiddies' nutrition and PE programs.

To approximately no one's surprise, Big Soda is not happy about Supervisor Scott Wiener's proposed soda tax. Proposition E would tax sugary beverages at two cents per ounce, generating an estimated $30 million per year for the city that would go toward children's nutrition and physical education programs. What is surprising is how cartoonishly strong the soda companies are coming on. Campaign disclosure filings show that the "No on Prop. E" group has raised about $8 million so far from only one donor: The American Beverage Association, a lobbyist group funded by Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo.

These deep pockets enabled the anti-E campaign to paper the city with advertisements showing local small business owners, like Taylor Peck of soda emporium The Fizzary, imploring the public to vote against the tax because the cost of living and doing business in San Francisco is already too high. Other spots use nanny state rhetoric: Isn't it our right as free Americans to drink sugary beverages until we collapse in a diabetes-induced coma if we so choose? The "No on E" campaign has spent more than $1.5 million on TV and radio spots alone — nearly six times the total amount raised by the "Yes on Prop. E" group, whose contributions come mainly from medical groups and health professionals.

The proposed tax would apply to any "nonalcoholic beverage sold for human consumption that has one or more added caloric sweeteners and contains more than 25 calories per 12 ounces of beverage." Which is fancy talk for soft drinks, sports drinks, iced tea, juice drinks, energy drinks, and fountain drinks. The tax wouldn't apply to milk, 100 percent natural fruit or vegetable juices, infant formula, liquid meal replacements, or most syrups and powders. (Your grande Salted Caramel Mocha Frappucino® may contain 25 percent of your sugar for the day, but it's safe for now.)

City chief economist Ted Egan estimates that the tax would raise drink prices by about 23-36 percent and reduce consumption by a third. The measure requires a two-thirds majority to pass, which seems unlikely at press time. Somewhere in a candy palace in Atlanta, Mr. Coca-Cola is sitting beside a fizzing swimming pool, twirling his mustache with glee.


About The Author

Anna Roth

Anna Roth

Anna Roth is SF Weekly's former Food & Drink Editor and author of West Coast Road Eats: The Best Road Food From San Diego to the Canadian Border.

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