Philadelphia passes soda tax after mayor rewrites playbook

Soda in Walmart

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney scored a victory that eluded more than 40 U.S. public officials who took on the powerful U.S. soda industry when the city council voted on Thursday to slap a tax on sweetened drinks.

After a bitter, months-long battle, the city council voted 13-4 to approve a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary and diet drinks. The council already approved the plan in a preliminary vote last week, and the outcome had not been expected to change.

The City of Brotherly Love became the biggest U.S. city to have such a tax. Much smaller Berkeley, California, was the first.

Similar efforts, including several spearheaded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, were defeated after intense lobbying from organizations like the American Beverage Association, which opposes the Philadelphia move and represents Coca-Cola Co and PepsiCo Inc.

The Philadelphia tax marked a major victory for health advocates who say sugary drinks cause obesity and diabetes. But experts noted those concerns were not the focus for Kenney and other backers of the tax as they took on critics complaining that “nanny state” public health measures intrude on residents’ personal lives.

Instead, Kenney rewrote the soda-tax advocate’s playbook. He played up the benefits of the cash injection from the tax for the city’s depleted coffers. In the first year, the tax is projected to raise $91 million, and he pledged to spend funds on public programs such as universal pre-kindergarten.

The strategic shift could lend momentum to movements in San Francisco, neighboring Oakland, California, and Boulder, Colorado. Residents of those cities will vote in November on similar taxes, which could deal further blows to a U.S. soft drink industry already hit by declining soda consumption.

U.S. soda consumption fell for the 11th straight year in 2015, according to Euromonitor data.


Bloomberg made public health a centerpiece of his tenure as New York City mayor between 2002 and 2013. He moved to limit smoking in parks and restaurants, ban transfats and require calorie counts posted in some restaurants.

On soda, he pushed for a tax, then a ban on soda purchases with food stamps, and finally a much-lampooned limit on the size of sugary drinks. His efforts were ultimately rejected, with critics decrying the moves toward a “nanny state.”

The strategy worked in Britain, where a new soft drinks levy was announced in March after officials emphasized the country’s obesity crisis, saying it cost the economy billions of pounds annually and was a huge burden on the state-funded health system.

That approach never worked in Philadelphia. Michael Nutter, the previous mayor, twice tried to pass a soda tax as a health initiative and as a way to plug a budget shortfall. He was unable to push it through the city council.

Kenney, who became Philadelphia’s mayor in January, had made a campaign pledge to provide universal pre-kindergarten, and he kept that issue as his focus. A spokeswoman said complex state laws on taxation made enacting a citywide soda tax the best option to raise revenue for that signature proposal.

Bloomberg personally contributed funding to support Philadelphia’s pro-tax campaigners.


Opponents of Philadelphia’s soda tax argued that the measure will disproportionately hurt the poor and prompt Philadelphians to travel to nearby suburbs to buy soda.

In Colorado, Boulder hopes to use soda tax revenue on health programs, and San Francisco and Oakland officials would recommend but not require funds raised to go toward obesity and diabetes prevention.

When Berkeley passed its soda tax in 2014, industry groups dismissed the measure as a fluke given the city’s largely white population and reputation as a hotbed for liberal measures.

But Philadelphia is the fifth-largest U.S. city, with 1.6 million people. “No one can trivialize it as they can trivialize Berkeley,” said Larry Tramutola, a California political strategist who worked on the Berkeley campaign and is currently leading the San Francisco and Oakland efforts.

(Additional reporting by Melissa Fares in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Dan Grebler)

The Garbage of the World or God’s Foods? You Choose!

Yesterday, our guests on the live show included three esteemed health and nutrition experts; Dr. Roy Curtin, Michelle Bacarella, and Frank Davis of Food for Health, International. We have had some lively and revealing discussions about what we eat, how our bodies react to what we eat, and how we can maximize the nutritional value of our foods with the right supplements.
In our discussions, we talked about the fact that this nation, in particular, has sacrificed our health on the altar of convenience. We are quite satisfied with the garbage produced by huge corporations as food because it tastes good and it’s fast.   We don’t need to take much time to think about or prepare this stuff.  Not many of us know the harm it’s doing to our bodies and the sad fact is that there isn’t many who care!
We would rather stick our heads in the sand and accept the outcome of sickness and eventual, often premature death, than learn what to eat and how to supplement our foods with healthy natural vitamins and other necessary nutrients. Why?
Proverbs 23:2 says, “And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.”
Okay, we know this is not meant literally, but it lets you know that dealing with your appetite is a very serious matter.

Ask yourself what’s more dangerous than putting a knife to your throat when it comes to your appetites?  What exactly happens when we continuously give in to what our appetites want?  What if we ate everything we wanted to eat, whenever we wanted to eat it?  Chances are, our weight would balloon to a point of morbid obesity and we would eventually develop weight-related illnesses, which could ultimately lead to an untimely death.

“Most studies show an increase in mortality rate associated with obesity as obese individuals have a 50% to an ultimate 100% increased risk of death from all causes. Even those moderately obese people have their life expectancy shortened by 2 to 5 years.” (Pesic, Milos. 2006 Tracking Obesity Statistics.)

The medications we take to treat these illnesses caused by improper nutrition often have serious and sometimes mortal side effects!  What sense does that make?  I don’t know about you, but I can’t live with this kind of nonsense!

Is fulfilling your appetite worth losing your life? I am trying to provoke you to take better care of yourself because I love you and want you to be well!

It’s sad, but many times people would rather feed on the garbage of the world than feast on the goodness of God’s foods.
That’s a prophetic picture of the world and the Church as well… but that’s another day.
Don’t miss even one of these informative shows with Frank Davis, Michelle Bacarella, and Dr. Roy Curtin.  It just may save your life!
Make your decision today to take better care of your health!
God loves you!  And so do I.