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California City May Tax Sugary Drinks Like Cigarettes 842

Hugh Pickens writes "Voters in Richmond, California are set to decide in November whether to make the Bay Area city the nation's first municipality to tax soda and other sugary beverages to help fight childhood obesity. The penny-per-ounce tax, projected to raise between $2 million and $8 million, would go to soccer fields, school gardens and programs to treat diabetes and fight obesity. Councilman Jeff Ritterman, a doctor who proposed the measure, says soda is a prime culprit behind high childhood obesity rates in Richmond, where nearly 20 percent of residents live below the poverty line. 'If you look at where most of our added sugar is coming, it's coming from the sugar-sweetened beverages,' says Ritterman. 'It's actually a poison for you, because your liver can't handle that huge amount of fructose.' Not everyone is pleased by the proposed license fee on businesses selling sweetened drinks. It would require owners of bodegas, theaters, convenience stores and other outlets to tally ounces sold and, presumably, pass the cost on to customers. Soda taxes have failed elsewhere — most notably in Philadelphia, where Mayor Michael A. Nutter's attempts to impose a 2-cents-per-ounce charge on sugary drinks have sputtered twice. However, Dr. Bibbins-Domingo says similar taxes on cigarettes have had a dramatic effect on public health. 'It was a few decades ago when we had high rates of tobacco and we had high rates of tobacco-related illnesses. Those measures really turned the tide and really led to lower rates of tobacco across the country.'"

The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.