Big Soda strikes back against the sugar tax

As goes California, so goes the nation. That’s why I love the Golden State: They’re almost always on the right side of the argument. And I often look to them to lead us in the right direction — especially when it comes to healthy eating.

Which is what makes this latest news so disheartening…

In a sad turn of events, it seems even California is backing down in the crusade against sugar.

Following the money trail

First, some background: Not too long ago, the state’s lawmakers passed a measure that would ban new taxation on groceries until 2031.

The bill is called the “Keep Groceries Affordable Act of 2018.” California’s governor signed it into law at the end of June. And on the surface, it may sound like a compassionate move to combat hunger.

But you and I both know better. And one look at the fine print tells you all you really need to know.

For one thing, this effort was spearheaded by the beverage industry. Why is that, you ask? Well, it just so happens that sugary drinks get a pass under the new law — which requires any local communities looking to ratchet up soda taxes to muster a two-thirds vote. (The current threshold is 50 percent.)

In fact, campaign finance data shows that beverage companies shelled out millions to gather the signatures required to push this tax ballot measure through… and to undermine the ability of local governments to raise critical revenue as they see fit.

And there you have it, folks — Big Agribusiness at its finest. In this instance, they were willing to inflict grave harm on the people of California to protect their bottom line. And the worst part is, this isn’t an isolated incident. It happens every day in this country.

We’re at the mercy of whoever can spend the most money to make their voices heard.

Protest with your wallet — and your vote

But here’s why this is a particularly devastating blow: So far, California has passed more soda taxes than any other state. And as a result, they’ve been able to boost revenue for schools and services.

But given California’s enormous population, soda bans in grade and high schools have also proven effective in dealing a blow against the diabesity epidemic. (I certainly can’t imagine a better way to fight this war than to eliminate one of the most obvious culprits.)

Needless to say, this little deal with the devil sparked some serious outrage in the health community. (Even among mainstream medical societies, like the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Cancer Society. Well, color me surprised!)

But in a classic case of foxes in the hen house, the soda industry maintains that the best way to reduce sugar consumption is for everyone — the government, public health groups, and the beverage industry — to work together to empower people to change their behaviors.

That’s hilarious, given that the beverage industry spent upwards of $900 million in 2013 to market sugary drinks as fun and healthy. And now they’re pushing for laws across the country that would keep states from taking action to stop soda’s deadly toll.

Think about that the next time you consider buying one of these companies’ products. And don’t forget it when you go out to vote, either.

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