What candidate or ballot measure are you most passionate about in your city or state? With the elections quickly coming up, I find myself most involved with the “Yes on Measure D” campaign here in Berkeley, which if it passes, would be the first soda tax in the country.
As someone who has witnessed the toll that type 2 diabetes and heart disease can take on a family and the healthcare system– and in my family, there is definitely a link to a lot of soda consumption! — it’s an issue near and dear to my heart. Yes, we need to build more parks, bike lanes and address food deserts. But we also must hold junk food and junky beverage marketers accountable, too. Something is wrong when soda is the default drink in a children’s menu. Something is wrong when the soda industry is allowed to target our kids through cartoons, video games and their favorite celebrities. Imagine if Beyoncé were the Marlboro spokeswoman? We have thankfully stigmatized cigarettes enough that no celebrity would touch that, and yet, it’s still acceptable to make caffeinated and sugary beverages appealing and as readily accessible as possible to children!
This past weekend I attended an event sponsored by the Berkeley Ecology Center — they’re the folks who brought to us our farmers’ markets and our nation’s first recycling program — on the soda tax in Mexico. Mexico is facing a crisis, in which after the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the importation of U.S. corporations such as Coca Cola Company, its people are abandoning the healthier traditional diet in droves for processed foods and soda. This super market display of sodas beneath bananas blew me away:
After years of repeated warnings by the country’s healthcare officials — and being rebuffed by the soda industry’s millions of dollars in lobbying efforts — international non-government agencies became involved to help pass a 10% soda tax in the country.
While healthcare officials say there is much work to do to curb Mexico’s appetite for artificially sweetened beverages, it has raised $500 million for the country and there has been a 10% decline in soda consumption. Campaigns such as the one below asking parents — “Would you give your child 12 teaspoons of sugar?” — have helped inform the public as to how much sugar a soda actually has, and no, your kids don’t need soda to live.
“The health costs (related to type 2 diabetes) alone was collapsing the health care industry,” said Rebecca L. Berner, Director of El Poder del Consumidor.
I left the event inspired and will probably make my way to the “Yes on D” office in downtown Berkeley to do some phone banking. Berkeley is an outdoorsy, healthy city, but I hope that this initiative serves as an example for the rest of the country — very much like our recycling program and farmers’ markets!
What else is in the news? What’s up with you?