New Coalition Emerges to Reduce SSB Consumption

On Wednesday, a coalition of public health and health equity advocates, medical providers, and lawmakers emerged to renew a push for a statewide sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax. The coalition – Californians for Less Soda – is comprised of organizations including the American Heart Association, California Medical Association, California Dental Association, Public Health Advocates, and the Public Health Institute, among others. According to the coalition, their overarching goal is to ensure that any legislative or ballot initiative proposals related to SSBs assure that consumption of these beverages declines and revenues generated from a tax or fee are invested in creating a healthier future for children and promoting more equitable health outcomes.

Recall, local taxes on groceries (including SSBs) are prohibited until 2031 as part of a complex 2018-19 Budget Act deal struck between the beverage industry and organized labor entities. In response to the deal struck in June 2018, lawmakers and medical and public health stakeholders expressed a renewed interest in pushing back against the beverage industry through various legislative and initiative proposals aimed at curbing SSB consumption throughout the state. However, a California Medical Association (CMA)- and California Dental Association (CDA)-sponsored ballot initiative failed to qualify for the 2020 ballot earlier this year. Additionally, a package of five measures introduced earlier in this year’s legislative session by lawmakers – measures to implement an SSB fee, require warning labels on SSBs, require healthy beverages in store checkout aisles, prohibit large unsealed beverage containers, and prohibit SSB retailer incentives – have all stalled for the year and have become two-year bills.

Assembly Member Richard Bloom, who has attempted SSB tax legislation on more than one occasion, this week stated about the nascent coalition and legislative proposal, “We have large majorities in both state houses and a progressive governor. If we mean what we say about public health, there’s now way we can’t win this fight. It’s just a matter of making sure everyone knows the truth about Big Soda.” While the new coalition’s exact strategy remains to be seen, the beverage industry has also indicated a renewed commitment to ensuring that food and beverages in California remain affordable for working families and neighborhood businesses.

More information on Californians for Less Soda, including fact sheets and other materials, is available here.