Two Golden State cities most people across the country have never heard of - El Monte and Richmond - will decide on November 6 whether or not businesses should pay a penny-per-ounce tax on every soda and sugar-sweetened beverage sold to customers.
Today, the San Francisco Chronicle encouraged voters in Richmond to oppose the beverage tax on the November ballot. It must have come as a stunning blow to activists from New York to California who have been pushing a beverage tax for years. We're still weeks away from the election and the outcome is not certain, but today's editorial opposing the tax is important to point out. It comes from a newspaper that has endorsed plenty of tax measures in the past. But they found the thinking behind Richmond's beverage tax proposal unreasonable and unwise.
"The industry believes that it's being unfairly targeted as a scapegoat in America's growing obesity problem, which is partially true - sodas certainly don't help anyone maintain a healthy diet, nor are they the only reason for our country's expanding waistlines. Sedentary lifestyles and other bad eating habits are to blame as well. It's neither fair nor wise to specifically target sodas for a special tax."
Hundreds of small business owners in El Monte and Richmond oppose beverage taxes. The majority of the businesses in El Monte are owned by women and minorities who've struggled through the economic meltdown of the past few years. In Richmond, local residents simply don't believe the revenue from beverage taxes will be spent on the anti-obesity programs that lawmakers are suggesting it will. Their skepticism is justifiable. All of the revenue would go straight to the city's general fund and could be used for anything.
Instead of singling out scapegoats for obesity, health activists and politicians would be far more successful in their efforts if they would engage in an honest discussion about balanced diets and exercise.