County Considers Tax on Soda

They join cities like Richmond, Calif. and New York City in mulling over a possible tax as a way of reducing obesity and obesity-related health care costs.


Just weeks after the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors on the November ballot, word is spreading that they are talking over the possibility of a tax on soda in an effort to reduce obesity.

Soda taxes have recently made headlines in cities like Richmond, Calif. and New York City, begging the question, just how much should our government be involved in our health and lifestyle choices?

The suggestion of a soda tax in San Mateo County came on the heels of a recent post on the County Health System's website, entitled, "A Soda Tax Could Help Us Stop Pouring On the Pounds."

The post declares that "there is a direct link between sugary drinks and obesity," and states that obesity and the diseases caused by it cost the United States roughly $147 billion each year.

Specifically, the post said that half a million dollars is spent on obesity-related health care costs right here in San Mateo County each year.

The post also quotes a recent study published in the medical journal Health Affairs that suggests that taxing soda and other sugary drinks by one cent per ounce "could prevent 2.4 million cases of diabetes a year, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 premature deaths over 10 years." Also, in June, the American Medical Association endorsed soda taxes as an effective way for municipalities to pay for anti-obesity programs.

On a more serious note, the Health System's post stated, "It’s become clear that trying to get people to eat less and exercise more is not going to turn this obesity epidemic around."

However, despite the support by the County Board of Supervisors and the County Health System, a poll attached to the Health System's post suggested that local residents are divided over the issue.

Fifty-one percent of the 403 respondents said they didn't think such a tax would make a difference. Only 41 percent said they thought it would help, and 7 percent indicated they weren't sure.

However, local residents can rest assured - at least for the time being - that the County Supervisors are still in the "mulling it over" phase of their discussion, and currently have no official plans to discuss the idea of such a tax in an official capacity, or put it up for a vote, just yet, according to an article in the San Jose Mercury News in which reporters spoke to representatives for Supervisor Rose Jacobs-Gibson.

The article also states that Gibson is scheduled to host a discussion event on the issue of sugary drinks and their relation to obesity, and the idea of taxes as a potential solution to the problem, in October. Reportedly, representatives from the city of Richmond, Calif. have been invited to speak on how the City's proposed soda tax has been going over with voters.


PATCH WANTS TO KNOW - What do you think of the idea of a countywide tax on sodas or other sugary beverages? Do you think it could help reduce obesity? Or is it none of the County's business what we choose to drink? Will people who like to drink soda just keep buying it anyway?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mike August 07, 2012 at 03:50 AM
I'd be interested to hear just how a soda tax can cure obesity. Adults will pay it and move . Young people likely not even give it a thought. Adult obesity is far beyond the control of government and the issue would be better served if it were to be address in the early developmental years. Address child obesity. Why not tax irresponsible parents, and the video game stores who help to turn kids into fat little out of shape couch potatoes? Wait a minute, here is a better dumb idea. Weigh kids in at the start of the school year (K thru 12) and every quarter thereafter. If the kid does not meet weight to height ratio standard tax the parents on an escalating scale (the further from the standard the more they pay). As an alternative they could use a body fat index. Either way I’ll bet several parents will get on board at fighting “childhood obesity” real fast. From the time we are awake to the time we go to sleep we’re paying some sort of tax. The only thing we've yet to be taxed on is sex and that’s likely because the politicians cannot agree if it would be a pleasure or nuisance tax and when it is that we'll be put you into a new tax bracket.
Jonathan Koolpe August 07, 2012 at 04:58 AM
I would again point out that we, the people, must rise up and vote these jokers out of office...from the San Mateo supervisor, to the mayors, to the governor, to the congressman and senators, and right on up to our current President...they have all failed us miserably, have no clue, and are controlled by multitudes of special interests that have nothing but their own self-interests at heart. We must change course 100%. All incumbents must go!!
Vince Chutney August 07, 2012 at 06:30 AM
Jonathan: I'll drink to that, i.e., as long as I don't have to pay a tax on it... As for the child obesity problem, you can thank the extreme environmentalists for that as they obsessively turn our parks, ballfields and recreation areas into stand-behind-the-ropes-and-look-only museums. Sports programs have been replaced by "passive recreation". The kids are left with nothing but Facebook, video games and native plant gardening. Coca Cola, et al, have been around and enjoyed much longer than this problem. However, political correctness will surely keep us from solving anything. That's it, lets tax PC!
Tina Palmer August 07, 2012 at 06:45 AM
Why not tax alcohol, toilet paper, the air we breath, all blue eyed people, people with small dogs, people who are of German decent, people with tattoos, single mothers, the list goes on. They are also trying to tax how many miles you drive in a day. STUPID!!!!!!!!!!!!
Tina Palmer August 07, 2012 at 06:50 AM
It is up to the individual and parents to be responsible for what goes in their mouth. I know that I have to watch my intake and exercise to lose weight, Taxing everything under the sun is not going to do it, and if you it bad enough, you will get it.
Tina Palmer August 07, 2012 at 06:56 AM
Actually a 12 pack of name brand soda is 5.99 and going up.
Tina Palmer August 07, 2012 at 06:57 AM
How about moderation on eating these things.
watchfultaxpayer August 07, 2012 at 07:36 AM
I say...VOTE AGAINST ANY TAX !!! Throwing good money after bad. Now...in this day of easy access to information, why is it people don't know what foods are good, what foods are bad and why one needs to exercise??? That information is available online just as easily as the latest Kardashian bad behavior. People need to step up the the plate and take responsibiity for their own behavior and their bad health if it results from their bad behavior. And the government needs to butt out!!!!!!!!!!!! IF people choose to live in a way that they die early, isn't that a form of natural selection???
Antonio Catpo August 08, 2012 at 05:33 AM
Finally, i proposal against one of the worst problems our country faces: OBESITY!! Congratulations to the entire Board of Supervisors.
Jim August 08, 2012 at 05:57 AM
Awesome, it's great citizens like you who tell the rest of us how to live. We'd be lost without your gentle wisdom.
watchfultaxpayer August 08, 2012 at 07:07 AM
I don't know if you were addressing me or Antonio Catpo. If it was me then I say Oh contraire !!!!! It is the supervisors who are attempting to dictate how people live their lives by adding tax to something a lot of people enjoy thereby limiting their enjoyable lifestyle. I, on the other hand, don't care how other citizens live their lives, as long as I am not expected to pay for the lousy outcome of their chosen livestyle.
Will Jones August 08, 2012 at 05:44 PM
I am glad that the County is looking out for the health of our children. I wish the City of San Mateo did the same instead of taking away their recreational opportunities by closing the ice rink.
Jim August 08, 2012 at 06:07 PM
It would be even more awesome if parents looked out for the health of their children. If they can't cut it then don't have them.
Vanessa Castañeda (Editor) August 08, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Sometimes that's not a real option, Jim.
Enquiring Mind August 08, 2012 at 10:09 PM
I thought it was the Bridgepoint developers who were planning on not renewing the lease. What does San Mateo have to do with the ice rink?
Jim August 08, 2012 at 10:11 PM
The government hast to step in and treat responsible people the same as irresponsible people. We need more engineers in government, liberal arts majors are ruining this country.
Enquiring Mind August 08, 2012 at 10:12 PM
I just took a look at the current SMC Supes. Outside of Pine and Horsely, the others look like they could afford to lose a few pounds. I love it when the obese complain about obesity.
Bill Bohlen August 08, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Someone would have to run against them then.
Bill Bohlen August 08, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Alcohol is taxed.
youreanidiot101 August 08, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Starts at home. A tax will not stop anyone from consumption. We already pay enough in taxes. What is next... removing all foods that have sugar? At what point are people responsible for their own actions? Just another example of blaming someone else and taking no responsibility.
youreanidiot101 August 08, 2012 at 11:15 PM
At Rex... Really... its the moms fault? What about the dad? Hello 1950! It would be nice if some of us had the option to stay home and be barefoot and pregnant... Living in the Bay Area doesn't really afford you that luxury. Most need two incomes to make ends meet. It is a nice option for some... but not realistic for all.
youreanidiot101 August 08, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Agree 100%
Bob Cancilla August 08, 2012 at 11:21 PM
No more additional taxes for San Mateo County residents, enough is enough.
youreanidiot101 August 08, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Agree 100%
Vanessa Castañeda (Editor) August 08, 2012 at 11:27 PM
In Richmond, the tax would be one cent per ounce on drinks with sugar added to them. NY would ban beverages that are more than 16 oz and contain more than 25 calories per 8 oz.
youreanidiot101 August 08, 2012 at 11:39 PM
If Michelle Obama never brought this to the table it would not be an issue... The last time I checked she was not a size 6. It is about being healthy at any weight. Eating the right foods and exercising. There are a lot of people who have eating disorders because people make them feel bad about their weight and how they look. Some eat through the pain... other binge and purge. So what is the government doing for the binge and purgers... they cost the health system the same... if not more... The government and our BOS have much more important things to concern themselves with... How about the rise in crime and break in's in our neighborhoods. How about figuring out how to put more cops on the streets... not closing firehouses, making sure our schools are meeting standards... These are much more important matters... Besides... ObamaCare is the answer to all the healthcare problems (sarcasm)... I am already going to pay for that... why should I have to pay another tax on top of that?
Bill Bohlen August 08, 2012 at 11:44 PM
This will be the 5th tax the county has put on the ballot since June!
Will Jones August 09, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Bridgepointe is asking the City Council for approval to amend the master plan and choose an off-site recreational use. Last time this came up, the City Council sided with the kids and voted 5-0 against closing the rink. It is the City Council's decision whether to side with the kids and local businesses or more chain stores and traffic at the mall.
cf August 09, 2012 at 02:18 AM
the county could care less about obesity, its just another scam to raise money thats all they care about period
watchfultaxpayer August 09, 2012 at 07:39 AM
Looks like we're all in agreement regarding new taxes. Perhaps it wil be deteated.


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