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San Francisco soda tax proposed

By Kay Bell ·
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

Candy is on everybody's mind at the end of October and early November. Adults buy Halloween treats to hand out to trick-or-treaters and then for weeks "help" the kiddies finish off their Oct. 31 haul of sweets.

San Francisco, however, is focusing on another sugary indulgence. City Supervisor Scott Wiener wants voters to agree to a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on soda and other drinks with added sugar.

Don't go hoarding your colas and juice drinks just yet, San Franciscans. The vote, if it happens, wouldn't be until November 2014.

And given public reaction to similar soda tax efforts elsewhere, the chances of it passing are not good.

Soda taxes tough sale

Thirty-four states and Washington, D.C., already collect regular sales taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages but, according to an October 2012 report by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, the taxes are too small to affect consumption.

That same report also found that since 2009, policymakers in approximately 24 states and six cities have proposed additional taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.

None of the added tax proposals have made it into law.

I know, you're thinking what about the Big Apple? New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's anti-soda effort wasn't a tax. He tried last year to ban the sale of sugary drinks served in containers larger than 16 ounces. The move was challenged in court and declared illegal by a state judge. The mayor and ban opponents are awaiting final word from New York's highest court.

Will the traditionally liberal voters of San Francisco break through the soda-tax barrier?

It will take two-thirds of them to agree to Wiener's proposal for it to become law. A majority of voters might be OK with paying more for sugary drinks because, according to Wiener, the estimated $31 million a year the tax would generate will go to nutrition, health and physical fitness programs.

Everybody in the Golden State is all about looking and feeling better, right? Well, maybe not in the California towns of El Monte and Richmond. Soda tax ballot initiatives in those locales fizzled in 2012.

But when taxes are tied to a specific goal, they usually are viewed at least a little bit more favorably. All Californians also agreed in the last election to raise taxes to help their state get on a more solid fiscal footing.

Most Americans hate soda taxes

San Franciscans could, however, follow the national trend found in an April survey by Harris Interactive. That online poll in conjunction with Health Day found that most U.S. adults overwhelmingly oppose soda and candy taxes.

Between 56 percent and 58 percent said no to added taxes on sweets, while only 21 to 23 percent were in favor. Many respondents also doubted that the added costs would deter unhealthy overconsumption.

That's the perception that Wiener and his soda-tax advocates will have to change.

Would you support a tax on sodas and other sugary drinks? Do you agree with the Harris poll that higher prices don't necessarily promote healthy activity? Or do you think soda taxes are just the latest example of a nanny state governance run amok?


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Veteran contributing editor Kay Bell is the author of the book "The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes" and co-author of the e-book "Future Millionaires' Guidebook."

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November 19, 2013 at 2:58 am

San Francisco Supervisors Scott Wiener and Eric Mar are the Nanny Police, because they want to impose a sin tax on sugary drinks. There are already sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco. Thus those who drink sugary drinks are sinners just like consumers of alcohol and tobacco. Scott Wiener is the Nanny Police who thinks people in the nude are sinners. Eric Mar was the Nanny Police who banned kids toys from McDonalds Happy Meals. Eric Mar was the Nanny Police who complained that it was a waste of time and money for San Francisco to have celebrated Batkid for having survived leukemia. This, however, was in direct opposition to President Obama and Christian Bale who both cheered on the Batkid. The Nanny Police are up to more no good with their deluded, smug, self-righteous impositions upon the civil liberties of Americans.

November 14, 2013 at 5:10 pm

It's none of anyone else's business what people drink. If you have no problem with who they sleep with, you should have no problem with what they drink. The medical issues of STDs are quite disasterous to society in a way similar to what they eat.

Otherwise, you have to say they can only have one sex partner, and that person needs to be tested for disease for they get started. I'm sure that would go over well.

Greg Foreman
November 07, 2013 at 11:00 am

Has anyone ran the numbers on this proposal? A tax of 2 cents per ounce breaks out to 32 cents per pint, 64 cents per quart. I'm not debating the logic of the tax. Overall consumption of fructose based, phosphoric based soft drinks should be curtailed. The US has the highest consumption of carbonated products in the world, with the consumption being the highest in the youngest members of society, ages 10-25. The average US consumption of soft drinks equates to a per capita consumption of 45 gallons, the equivalent of 40 pounds of sugar per person/per year. Think about that for a second. 40 pounds of sugar! The most devastating aspect of soft drink consumption goes unnoticed and unreported, phosphoric acid. The consumption of one eight ounce soft drink containing phosphoric acid inhibits the body’s ability to metabolize calcium by as much as 50% for the next 21 days. Can we say osteoporosis. With the average American consuming 45 gallons a year of phosphoric based sugar laden drinks a year, is the growth in osteoarthritis really surprising. I would have to question whether or not a 2 cents an ounce will be enough to effect the price elasticity and the overall consumption these products. Bottom line, I think not.