News

Palo Alto eyes tax on sodas

Modeled after San Francisco and Berkeley, proposed tax would apply to distributors

A crusade by a Palo Alto dentist to get the city of Palo Alto to adopt a soda tax is quickly picking up momentum, with four members of the City Council now preparing a memo in support of including such a measure on the November ballot.

If adopted by voters, Palo Alto would join the likes of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Albany and Seattle in taxing distributors of sugar-based beverages, including sodas, smoothies and energy drinks. In most cases, the rates range between 1 cent per fluid ounce (as in Berkeley and Albany) to 1.75 cents per fluid ounce (as in Seattle).

In Palo Alto, officials have yet to determine the details, including the rate. But according to Councilman Cory Wolbach, who is now drafting the colleagues memo, the local proposal will borrow heavily from other jurisdictions that have recently passed such a tax.

Wolbach told the Weekly that the memo will propose using the other cities' laws as templates, while putting a "Palo Alto spin on it."

Wolbach isn't the only council member who thinks a soda tax is a good idea. Mayor Liz Kniss and Councilwoman Karen Holman, both longtime champions of the city's "healthy city/healthy community" priority, are on board in supporting the memo. So is Councilman Greg Tanaka, the council's leading fiscal hawk.

The move to institute a soda tax is being spearheaded by Ken Horowitz, a retired dentist who in recent months has been passionately advocating for the ballot measure, talking to local policymakers and gathering information from other communities that have recently adopted such a tax.

Last month, Horowitz made his case during the oral-communications portion of the meeting, when he argued that a sugar tax would both reduce consumption (and hence, combat obesity) and raise revenues for important health programs. In Berkeley, the new tax has generated about $1.4 million since its passage in 2014, money that is used to support the local school district and various health and nutrition programs.

On Monday, Horowitz said he has attended numerous meetings in recent weeks, including a gathering of the Palo Alto Council of PTAs and a symposium on children's health, and has heard from various organizations that he believes would likely support a new soda tax, including the American Heart Association and the Santa Clara Dental Society.

Horowitz said that close to 40 percent of local fifth-graders are either overweight or obese, while nearly 40 percent of middle- and high-school students have reported drinking soda one or more times in the prior 24 hours.

"If this does go to the council, you can expect a lot of support," Horowitz said.

While the details of the new measure are yet to be hashed out, Holman said she supports the idea of moving ahead with a soda tax and called sugar consumption among children "pretty stunning."

"We have an obesity problem and I think a tax would not only raise awareness of the impacts of sugar but maybe, through education, lead to less consumption," Holman said.

While the tax could create a fresh revenue source for health programs, Holman said the main goal isn't to raise funds but to lower sugar consumption.

"First priority would be to address the health issues created and caused by sugary drinks," Holman said.

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

132 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2018 at 9:38 am

No more nickel-and-dime us to death taxes. When the "revenue" source is obscured by being built into the cost of doing business, its much easier for government to fully waste other people's money.


50 people like this
Posted by Homer Simpson
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Apr 18, 2018 at 9:57 am

We shouldn't stop at just taxing sodas. Or trying to protect children. Let's protect everyone from obesity.

Obesity is caused by all forms of sugars. So, let's start with the tax on sodas, but add to this list - including, but not exclusively, doughnuts, bagels, ice cream, sugared latte's at coffee shops and pastries. Oh, and don't forget the chocolate milk or soy drinks! Fruit juices (all sorts) contain high amounts of sugar (corn or natural) as well. The tax should also include a tax on the sugar packets at coffee shops. Milk itself has a lot of sugar.

Don't forget the added costs to all the shopkeepers who now have to collect that 'sales tax'. And the State of California for collecting those taxes.

D'OH!




17 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 18, 2018 at 10:01 am

San Francisco is taxing sugar drinks, but they are also pushing hard on a healthy alternative: tap water and reusable water bottles. The SFO airport and many San Francisco public buildings now have water fountains that pour directly into your water bottle. I don't know if it is a city law, but all restaurants in San Francisco either offer glasses of tap water or (in takeout restaurants) have a public tap water dispenser. The soda companies had been trying to scuttle these soda tax laws by monopolizing the bottled water market and charging ridiculous prices for bottles of water. Palo Alto's tap water is the same as San Francisco's, isn't it?


39 people like this
Posted by Ryan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2018 at 10:11 am

How about Starbucks? The drinks the kids ordered are full of sugar. Worse for you than that a can of soda.


123 people like this
Posted by Jacky Hood
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2018 at 10:36 am

I hope that Homer Simpson was being sarcastic.

For the City of Palo Alto to impose taxes on certain foods and beverages is way beyond the proper function of a city government. For the City to presume that it has the right to push people in the direction of certain habits is frightening.

Why do some people presume to tell other people how to live? Each person is responsible for his own life and parents are responsible for their minor children's lives. This is not the business or city government or any government. If we must have taxes, they should be for the purpose of collecting revenues to support city services and to enforce city statutes. They should be leveled on all citizens and not just those whose life style others dislike. Using taxation to impose specific lifestyles is abhorrent.


11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2018 at 10:48 am

Would this be like the paper bag tax? Where the money just goes into the profits of the company receiving the tax?

I don't approve of feel good taxes to make us behave differently and benefits the corporations involved rather than any feel good cause. Sometimes the cost of collecting a tax is more than the actual amount raised by the tax.

The reality is that soda is basically dirt cheap and the cost to make it is already lower than the cost of packaging (and packaging the packaging), marketing, transporting to point of sale and this applies to fountains as well as prepackaged containers. However, when buying a multi-pack in the local supermarket means you get a second multi-pack free shows that the corporations are profiting from the amount we buy and cause the addiction to sugary drinks.

There is another reality in that we should not be drinking as much and the tax just might cause us to drink less. I would prefer that to be done in other ways.

My suggestions would be to ban free refills (they aren't available in Europe for example), and ban special deals whereby getting an extra multi-pack free with the cost of one or two multi-packs should be banned. Other special deals such as a soda coming free with the price of a burger or a pizza, or an empty can getting you a discount at a movie theater or theme park should be banned.

We have to go back to the time when something like soda was for a special, occasional, a treat, a luxury, and not just something to expect to find available in the fridge anytime you are thirsty.


27 people like this
Posted by Supportive
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 18, 2018 at 11:08 am

Supportive is a registered user.

Thank you to Ken Horowitz for pushing on this. The fact that 40% of fifth graders in Palo Alto are overweight or obese should put us all on notice that the short-term incentives for good nutrition are not where they need to be. The sugar tax on beverages is a great start.


99 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 18, 2018 at 11:41 am

Annette is a registered user.

Seems to me that government should focus on matters that only government can address. Individuals and parents and medical professionals and schools can handle health related matters.


110 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2018 at 11:42 am

I will aggressively find as many friends that I know to vote out Cory Wolbach or any other politician that supports this ridiculous NANNY STATE tax.


95 people like this
Posted by Marj
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2018 at 11:59 am


There is a misconception than only Soda is making people obese. It is a fact that people consume way to many calories of all sorts in this country and there is a lack of exercise for all ages. I encourage healthy eating and exercise for all. Are we going to tax bread, potatoes, meat, pasta, cream, full fat milk, half and half, butter, cheese, salami, and fruit which contains also sugar? It is up to people themselves to monitor what they eat, drink, and do. Are we going to become a policed state where we can no longer read the books we want, have movies banned, where we can and cant go, only ship in specific foods and drinks. Think about this before you vote yes on this tax it will just lead to more bans or taxes.


86 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2018 at 11:59 am

If the goal is to prevent obesity in children, then simply ban sugary drinks for anyone under the age of 18. Of course, even this is an incredibly bad idea (albeit better than raising taxes to influence behavior).

We don't buy many sugary drinks. We mostly drink water or diet soda. However, we also buy Gatorade types of sport drinks for the added electrolytes to help during workouts. This was recommended by our doctor.

Such ludicrous taxes might actually be counterproductive in that it will cause people to buy their groceries elsewhere (where they will stock up). This hits local grocery stores but benefits stores elsewhere. Some sources are stating that this has been the result of such aggressive taxation in Seattle.

I have a better idea: Let's remove six months from an elected official's term if that person proposes utterly ridiculous nanny state laws or behavior-control taxes.

Perhaps this would encourage the city to focus upon things that matter more than an obesity problem that is more about inactivity than actual consumption of a Pepsi.


84 people like this
Posted by casey
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2018 at 12:07 pm

casey is a registered user.

"Horowitz said that close to 40 percent of local fifth-graders are either overweight or obese..."

This is incorrect unless by "local" he is referring to all of California. The California Dept. of Education reports that only 59.3% of 5th graders in California are in the Healthy Fitness Zone when looking at body composition, which aligns with Horowitz's statement.

Web Link

However, if you look at PAUSD, the CA DOE reports that 85.4% of 5th graders are in the Healthy Fitness Zone for body composition.

Web Link

There are plenty of important problems in Palo Alto, none of which can be solved by taxing sodas.


1 person likes this
Posted by Rio Grande
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 18, 2018 at 12:24 pm

Rio Grande is a registered user.

Forget the tax. Ban them!


76 people like this
Posted by Croc Dundee
a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2018 at 12:36 pm

Palo Alto residents may have the highest average IQ of any city in the world, but, still, the city council feels the need to tell its residents what to do. Something wrong with this picture. But, since I don't live in Palo Alto, I'm not smart enough to know what it is.


31 people like this
Posted by jayell
a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2018 at 12:43 pm

I hope this "soda tax" exempts sugar-free sodas. There is a clear distinction.


53 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 18, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

The concern about our health (we seem to focus on our kids mostly, without looking at ourselves in the mirror) including dental health is legitimate. I have a habit, a good one I think, of always asking questions about proposed taxes, however, including: The cost of the collection, overseeing and administration of it, tracking and reporting on it, and distribution of the revenues derived from it? But, of course the proponents and sitting CC members, and those running for re-election or for the first time, always make it sound like someone else will be paying for it and we will be the beneficiaries.

Really? Let's break that down a little bit. Take most of our local taxes for example...the bag tax, business tax, building fees, et al, add in minimum wage increases, the BV bailout, and the newly proposed 'sugar' tax and what do we have? Are we so naive and gullible to believe that corporations, developers, and business owners will be taking a major hit that will affect their bottom lines? Very unlikely! Their 'bottom line' is a profit percentage they've previously set as a goal, and any adjustments that need to be made to achieve that will generally be made...price increases to cover it, higher rents, whatever it takes.

So, in the end it's us consumers, tax payers, renters, et al, that will take the hit. I challenge any sitting CC member, those running for re-election, or new faces wanting to get in on the big stage at City Hall to respond and challenge that.

The bad and very costly decisions made by CC are notable, but we will never hear an apology or acceptance of that fact or that they made a mistake. The Ross Rd attempt at traffic calming is a prime example. It has proven to be a disaster...for bikers and car drivers alike. I think the much advertised willingness to have neighborhood meetings to get input from constituents to form a basis for voting on issues, is a farce. I think most of them (I've never been to one...although maybe I was invited without realizing it, didn't recognize it as an invitation) are meant, not to take input, but to give input, a sales pitch on their views, how things should be and will be better with their proposals, if elected. Better for whom? Better quality of life for us current residents? No, no, no...of course not! It's to offer a better quality of life for all of those outsiders who want to live in PA.

Oh my, will they ever be saddened to learn about our current quality of life if they are so unlucky to live here. They might turn around and go back to where they came from.



7 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2018 at 2:27 pm

So many problems in American, California and Palo Alto not being addressed because the perfect solution cannot be found. Anything where a loud unpleasant argument can replace a reason fact-based discussion is almost guaranteed to be dismissed. Meanwhile the root problems get worse.

The issue here is sugar and we need to have something that incentivizes food producers and grocers to begin to to turn things around. It should be obvious, but in the last years we see things getting worse. This is an addiction that many of us have grown up with and have deep emotional and psychological attachments to, programmed by large corporations before anyone knew better or understood what was happening. Like manipulating tobacco levels in cigarettes.

Maybe a better solution would be to tax food products based on the proportion of sugar they have. So, candy and cookies, cupcakes and sugar water ( including all the synonyms for sugar ) which are not really even food get a higher level of taxation, while breakfast cereals, breads and other products with a small amount of sugar get a lower level tax, but the motive is clear - to begin to turnaround the trend towards making things worse ... like chocolate covered Twinkies.

One good example of this is the few soda manufacturers that sell sodas with much less sugar concentration. There is a brand called GUS soda, GUS meaning Grown Up Soda, that has much lower sugar contents than average. Trying to cut down my sugar consumption without completely foregoing a carbonated beverage I started drinking this years ago. At the time they seemed so much less sweet, yet still tasty. Now I am looking for something with even less sugar because even GUS soda now seems too sweet.

The addition of sugar and salt and chemicals to foods are insidious and many people just respond to more sugar even as the actual flavor or fruit content of products is reduced. It is cheating, adulteration and it is making people sick at younger and younger ages.

In the meantime this a soda tax is at least a start, and it will put sugar purveyors on notice that they should start to regulate themselves. We should not be afraid to try new ideas, the states and cities are supposed to be the experimental laboratories of democracy.


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2018 at 2:42 pm

>> It is up to people themselves to monitor what they eat, drink, and do.

Marj, processed food producers do everything they can, within the regulation
and without to make that difficult to impossible. They break up sugar into
different ingredients so they do not have to call it sugar. They put fake
words that mean nothing on the boxes of their products. They still are
upping the amount of sugar they use, and they put it in everything.

If they can make it hard enough and keep people confused and make the effort
difficult people give up. How many people here have ever asked for nutritional
information from a fast food place?

This is war, and it is mostly a war where the regulators have been captured and
are being regulated by the very companies they are supposed to be regulating.
It is a war where everything is stacked against the consumer and the only
weapons consumers have it become rich and educated - or to buy or not buy
the many industrial products presented to them in convenience stores and
supermarkets.

Wikipedia tells me that the term junk food dates back at least to the early 1950s,
although it has been reported that it was coined in 1972 by Michael F. Jacobson
of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Throughout all that time the
problem has only gotten worse, even as it has been recognized more and more.

The model of American consumer business is junk-?????? whatever. At some
point we have better start to realize that we can change the names of our schools
to show we do not accept eugenics, but when the business model of American
business and government sells junk-everything to working people, from education,
to retirement-plans, to food, to health care, to justice --- we are committing a
virtual genocide on our own citizens, and the people doing it are profiting, financially
and politically in a way that is much more extreme the early ideas of eugenics.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2018 at 2:58 pm

The problem with sugar, and in particular corn syrup, is that it is in so many foods where you don't expect to find it. From pizza sauce and pasta sauce, to breads and even meat products, it is lurking. The corn growers in particular are a strong political body and the government is perfectly ok with hiding corn syrup in products that are not supposed to be sweet.

Let's get the big brands to take out a lot of the unwanted sugar in processed foods and let's get back to cooking more from scratch at home. We have to get sugar out of our diets and for many of us it is not the sugary drinks that are the problem.


64 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2018 at 3:34 pm

"In the meantime this a soda tax is at least a start..."

It is a terrible start. The question is: WHERE WILL IT END?

Taxation of society based upon what a handful of politicians or activists think is right -- without allowing that society to vote on it -- is a terrible practice.

Are there problems with drunk driving in your town? TAX BEER AND ALCOHOL!
Problems with wood burning fireplaces? HIGHER TAXES FOR HOMES WITH FIREPLACES!
Don't like automobiles? TAX THEM SO PEOPLE ARE LESS LIKELY TO BUY THEM!
Too many pets in your town? YEARLY TAXES FOR EVERY PET OWNED!
Don't like gas? TAX IT EVEN MORE!
Hate oil? TAX ALL OF THE MANY PRODUCTS THAT USE OIL!
Want to stop people from driving? TAX DRIVERS BY THE MILE!
Parking problems downtown? TAX PARKING SPACES!
Want to stop increasing landfill waste? TAX GARBAGE BY THE POUND!
Need affordable housing in town? INCREASE TAXES FOR HOUSING THAT ISN'T "AFFORDABLE!"

Wait. I should stop before I give old Jerry Brown and other left-wingers some more bad ideas.

It should never be the responsibility of politicians (or their activist donors) to tell us what the rest of us should or should not eat. The responsibility for regulation is up to each individual in a free society. If a person is having issues with his/her weight, then that person should change his/her habits. Parents -- and not politicians -- should obviously be in control of what their kids eat or drink when they're not at school.

As for the rest of society's issues, any laws should always come down to the idea of representational consent. Do the people in our society consent to higher taxes, new cost-increasing regulations or other laws pushed by politicians or activists?


60 people like this
Posted by Midtown Mad
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2018 at 3:41 pm

I've got a better idea, instead of government picking and choosing which products they think make people fat and slapping a tax on those products, why don't we just tax overweight people directly. The city could weigh everyone annually and based on the number of pounds that a citizen is overweight the City would assess that person a tax. I suggest a dollar per pound. That way people who are not overweight, who want to enjoy a soda, don't have to subsidize another government program for fat people.


50 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 18, 2018 at 4:09 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I prefer education to taxation.


44 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 18, 2018 at 5:18 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Annette
Your solution is so sample, but our politicians think we need to have new taxes to provide that education! How about a class in our public schools, that our current taxes pay for, to provide that education? I grew up in Montana and attended a one room country schoolhouse. We had a class called "Health'. These new concerns weren't problems then, but if they had been, that class is where those issues would have been handled.


6 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2018 at 6:10 pm

> It is a terrible start. The question is: WHERE WILL IT END?

Nayeli ... the majority what I read from you is like this ... the slippery slope fear based argument.

That is one way to look at it, but everything cannot be a slippery slope, can it? With the lack of
any change and even an acceleration in the wrong direction in terms of citizen's health, and the
cost that one way or another is going to come due to all of us, either in Medicare, ER visits or
Universal Health Care, we should not be afraid to start and then, collect data, analyze and
course correct as necessary.

Indeed I surmise that one big reason that even though taking the responsibility of providing
health care off the plate of businesses as a responsibility which Universal Health Care will
do, the dumping of the massive external costs of the nations health problems, many or
most of them caused by business itself, will change the whole country's economy. Ultimately
for the better, and ultimately in a way that will rationalize incentives for the real long term,
that multinationals are so against this because it will cut into their profits just a little and
establish the precedent of social responsibility. Why is that a fearful slippery slope?

I think a genuine slippery slope is that massive corporations have so much control over the
government based on financial contributions, that they own the government now. They may
wag a finger or two at bank regulators, or Mark Zuckerberg, but they rarely do anything and
not only do these problems get worse. but the rate of new problems increases. That is a real
slippery slope. Why not wait until there is a real problem before crying wolf? Nothing else
seems to incentivize corporations to be good citizens. Demonstrations, polls, even the
threat or regulation and even fines. There needs to be some way get the message through.

Your answers always seem to be that everything is bad idea, so do nothing. Honestly, do you
really think that is an answer to problems, or just a way to bat away any change at all?
I realize it is easy for most Palo Altans to say, life is great for me, and even for many of them
to say what do I care about my fellow Palo Altans, Californians or even Americans these days.
The whole nationalist bait and switch from Trump is based on people's dissatisfaction with
the status quo, but even Trump will not be able to shine the whole country on forever. Like
his claim to want to drain the swamp, pointing to Hillary Clinton's speeches to Goldman-Sachs,
and then appoint Goldman-Sachs people to run the economy.


46 people like this
Posted by Sigh
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2018 at 6:16 pm

Now that’s just being really nosy.

There are a plethora of other issues that deserve our immediate attention yet city council continues to sweep it under the rug.

Yes, SAVE US BY TAXING SODA BECAUSE WE NEED A LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO CONTROL OUR PERSONAL HABITS!

I’m expecting a day where PA will tax the air we breathe because of respiratory emissions of carbon dioxide.

Unbelievable.


8 people like this
Posted by ThisJustin
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Apr 18, 2018 at 7:35 pm



After reading about your statements about the proposed soda tax, I also support this proposition. I believe that the new tax will lower consumption of unhealthy soft drinks. Also, the tax will raise more money to combat health issues. Over consumption of soda is a real problem and we need to do something about it. If the implementation is well done, the new tax will help reduce many issues.


6 people like this
Posted by Connor
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 18, 2018 at 7:36 pm

In a city as affluent as Palo Alto, will a few cents on the price of sodas really impact consumption? I notice how much money was raised in Berkeley by the tax but they failed to mention if the consumption of soda fell. Is this really a health measure or a raising money measure? The goal of reducing consumption seem like a good one, even though I’m not a dentist. But will it be effective? Or will it just raise money from the most vulnerable teens in Palo Alto.


2 people like this
Posted by Chase Miner
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 18, 2018 at 7:38 pm

Although the soda tax sounds good in theory, the current implementation strategy doesn't seem like it will affect the average soda consumer. Between 1 to 1.75 cents per ounce doesn't seem like it will significantly deter people because most people who can afford to live in Palo Alto can afford a few extra cents per drink.


50 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2018 at 8:24 pm

@ CrescentParkAnon. -

You wrote: "Nayeli ... the majority what I read from you is like this ... the slippery slope fear based argument."

My response: I've noticed that some politicians and activists who have no problem with this sort of political maneuvering by select politicians (or who actually encourage it) often dismiss legitimate concerns about the place and purpose of government as little more than a "slippery slope" fallacy. Believe it or not, some slopes are indeed "slippery."

Still, my point is not so much about any sort of trend that this can begin in terms of select politicians and activists determining morality for the rest of us; but, my underlying point is that such politicians and activists SHOULD NOT have this sort of power or influence in the first place.

>>>>>>>>

You wrote: "Your answers always seem to be that everything is bad idea, so do nothing."

My response: I've never implied that "everything is a bad idea." Those are your words and your own attempt at creating a logic fallacy. I've also never said that "nothing" should be done for problems.

What did I say?

I said that taxation isn't the right approach in this case. This sort of "nanny state" should never be a solution because it isn't the responsibility of politicians or activists to determine what everyone else should or should not do or have access to.

Obesity is a problem. However, sugar or other sweeteners isn't the primary cause any more than Pizza My Heart is the "cause" of obesity in overweight and lonely middle-aged man-children. As I stated earlier, the primary issue is one of INACTIVITY.

Most children in Palo Alto are not overweight. Has a serious study been conducted that has examined the actual correlations with obese children in Palo Alto?

I suspect that the issue has less to do with sugar in soda than it does the fact that children simply aren't being guided by their parents to LIVE AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE while simultaneously told to LAY OFF THE FATTENING FOODS.

You can double the prices of Hershey bars and Cherry Coke and still have children who are obese because the most exercise that they get is walking to and from school. The solution is to EDUCATE PARENTS. IF you do this properly, then our politicians and other armchair activists wouldn't have to meddle in various ideas on how to raise the prices for everyone else.

As for your issues with Trump, Hillary and any other politicians: Why even bring that up? It has NOTHING to do with this conversation. I realize that you exude a great deal of hatred for President Trump. I get that. I thought many of President Obama's policies were terrible too. However, that has nothing to do with this issue.


13 people like this
Posted by mike and ike
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 18, 2018 at 8:35 pm

Sugar is an addictive chemical and we know this based off the comments on this page. adults would agree that sugar in excess could lead to diabetes. but the fact is people don't like being told what to do over a healthy lifestyle that will make them think about longevity of life in themselves and kids is crazy....change is hard in itself and small fraction of a cents on soda tax from 1.50 to possible a whole 2 dollars I'm assuming palo alto residents can afford soda if its bad or not so why gripe over a great chance and better health


59 people like this
Posted by Terry
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 18, 2018 at 9:18 pm

Of course this tax proposal is ridiculous, so let me just say +1 to all of Nayeli's comments.

Next

I have voted in every one of my 49 years living in Palo Alto, but never for a city council post. I did not know enough about local candidates to register an informed choice, so I abstained. Somehow I think I may be typical.

But never again. Given the incompetence of Palo Alto government with proposals like this, the Ross Road safety debacle, and much more, I resolve to carefully research and vote for city council candidates. I also resolve to never vote for an incumbent city council member, and to actively oppose them.


50 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 18, 2018 at 9:22 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Given all the issues here in Palo Alto, I can't believe the CC wasted any time on this.


9 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2018 at 9:29 pm

NAY-eli ...
> Believe it or not, some slopes are indeed "slippery."

I am sure that must be true, but I cannot think of one, and your slippery-slope arguments always go in the conservative direction. The point I was making is that not all slopes are slippery and not all in the same way defending the conservative point of view. A pattern becomes discernible after a certain amount of time.

>> It is a terrible start. The question is: WHERE WILL IT END?
> My response: I've never implied that "everything is a bad idea."

I guess you don't think everything is a bad idea, you think this one is terrible.
You call what I said a fallacy, and then say this ...

> This sort of "nanny state" should never be a solution because ...

The old call it a nanny-state and discredit it before you get to the reason, trick. But I'm responding to your reasons as well as pointing out the difficult style of your argument.

> However, sugar or other sweeteners isn't the primary cause any more than Pizza My Heart is the "cause" of obesity in overweight and lonely middle-aged man-children.

Now, that is the kind of comment I know you for. I am not an expert in what causes obesity in overweight and lonely middle-aged man-children ???? , and that is a very a peculiar expertise to claim, nevertheless there is lots of evidence that sugar is the significant factor in overweight and diabetes and metabolic syndrome, as well as concentration and behavior problems in children in school.

I invite you to listen to a podcast from the Commonwealth Club of California in two parts about Food Addiction where the sugar subject is discussed at length with the latest research by people who know something about the subject. It is here: Web Link

Michael Prager, Author, Fat Boy Thin Man
Nicole Avena, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Florida
Robert H. Lustig, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology, UCSF
Eric Stice, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, Oregon Research Institute
Vera Ingrid Tarman, MD., MSc., FCEP, CASAM, Medical Director, Renascent
Elissa Epel, Ph.D., Associate Professor, UCSF Department of Psychiatry
Ashley Gearhardt, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan

This program is an update from our previous Food Addiction program; all panelists will offer updated information.
Addiction is about brains, not just about behaviors. We all have the brain reward circuitry that makes food rewarding; it’s a survival mechanism. In a healthy brain, these rewards have feedback mechanisms for satiety or "enough." For some, the circuitry becomes dysfunctional such that the message becomes "more." Michael Prager, author of Fat Boy Thin Man, will begin the discussion telling his very personal story of recognizing and then seeking treatment for his food addiction. Leading researchers and clinicians will discuss many aspects of this important topic.

> I suspect that the issue has less to do with sugar in soda than it does the fact that children simply aren't being guided by their parents to LIVE AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE while simultaneously told to LAY OFF THE FATTENING FOODS.

You talk about fallacies when you direct your wrath to others, yet the what about the fallacy of basing important scientific question on "I suspect"?

But, for the sake of argument, let's assume you are right as you think you are. It doesn't matter. Whatever the problem is, it is not solved, it is not getting solved, and the processed and sugary food producers are going in the wrong direction and building up external costs that we all have to just live with if we accept the libertarian do nothing - it is not the government's job you continually espouse. The solution lies in realizing this sugar addiction is being used to tweak people's brains for money, and apparently one way of supporting that failure of capitalism is to ignore it and say it is a choice.

I don't know if is another fallacy, but arguing against the wrong argument is also an invalid tactic. That is the point is not to make sugary foods so expensive that no one can afford a Hershey bar - and I think you know that. The point is, I think, to put companies who produce this stuff on notice that we, the people, care, and to collect money for education and research into the problem.

Trump, and Trumpianism has a lot to do with this, because part of the question is undermining the power of government and democracy and putting the foxes in charge of the henhouse, while not a damn thing is done to solve problems as long as corporations are making tons of money. Yeah, I don't like Trump for lots of reasons, the same reasons the majority of Americans are disgusted with him, but my comment was not about that, or Hillary Clinton, it was about institutionalized systemic dysfunction in our government.


19 people like this
Posted by hp
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 18, 2018 at 10:00 pm

The idea of creating a tax on sodas and other foods deemed 'unhealthy' is really an admission of failure to deal with the root of the problem. Those who want sugar or fat will still buy it, if not in a soda, then in any other cheap product that isn’t taxed. Instead of singling out particular products like sodas, why not suggest a tax on every product that contains more than a certain amount of sugar? Because this isn’t realistic. The tax doesn’t make sense and is very unlikely to change behavior. The most that might happen is a shift in consumer preferences from one set of sugary products to another.

And from another point—why should the city government control what the people consume? The obesity problem is a two sided coin: one part comes from a poor diet, and another from lack of exercise. Why doesn't the city instead encourage community sports days, or guided activities in the park? There is always more than one way to solve a problem, and I fear we often think there isn't.


55 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2018 at 10:02 pm

@ CrescentParkAnom -

My name is "Nayeli" and not "NAY-eli." [Portion removed.]

You keep accusing me of bringing up "slippery slope" arguments. I don't normally do that. However, it fits (partially) in this case and in the recent case with the school name changes. Politicians often don't know when to say when.

Yes, I am conservative/libertarian. I make no apology for it. However, I am not beholden to any politician or political party. I've called out Republicans as readily as I've called out Democrats.

As for the "pattern:" You do seem to have something of a very strange habit of trying to re-educate me in the PaloAltoOnline forums (ad naseum) lately. Believe it or not, I actually read your posts. If the shoe fits, I'll certainly wear it. However, most of your posts seem to create a false composite of who I am and what I believe.

For instance, you nitpick over the idea that I think "everything is a bad idea." That is ludicrous. I certainly make strongly-worded comments when I think that some ideas are very bad ideas. That is the case here. I also make comments that applaud ideas too. You don't seem to respond to those.

Now, I will readily call this idea as something of a "nanny state" initiative because it is the epitome of that term! Like many people in Palo Alto, I don't need government "nannies" telling me how to raise my family or threatening to corral us like dumb animals through coercive taxation.

THE PROBLEM IS NOT SUGAR. The problem is too much sugar in the bellies of people who don't exercise. I eat sugar. I drink soda occasionally. However, I also exercise enough that I am not overweight.

Why should I be punished via taxes because some politician is oblivious to the REAL cause of obesity?

Food addiction is certainly as real as other addictions. Yet, do we tax everything that some unfortunate souls lack the self-control to use with common sense? Have alcohol taxes diminished alcoholism, public intoxication or drunk driving in this state?

I suspect that all of those names that you copied and pasted would readily admit that a normal person can drink a can of soda, a bottle of Gatorade or a Starbucks Frappachino if they maintain a normal, active lifestyle. For normal people, the problem is not the drink but the activity. Yes, children might be prone to drinking more sugary drinks -- but that is a PARENTAL GUIDANCE ISSUE and not merely a sugar issue.

As for your never-ending attempt to bring up President Trump in response to issues that really have nothing to do with him (as though obesity wasn't a problem BEFORE he ever ran for office): Please don't. I'm not sure how such a fallacy would be classified, but I am fairly certain that it would be one. [Portion removed.]


41 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 18, 2018 at 10:05 pm

Palo Alto so wants to desperately help small local grocery stores, but then adds another reason to not want to shop here. Personally, I want to do everything I can to support my neighborhood grocery store, including rejecting added taxes. And I don't even drink soda.


9 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2018 at 10:20 pm

Nayeli ... [Portion removed.]

> I suspect that all of those names that you copied and pasted would
> readily admit that a normal person can drink a can of soda, a bottle
> of Gatorade or a Starbucks Frappachino if they maintain a normal,
> active lifestyle.

Is that your point? Are you saying an admission that a normal person
can drink a soda? Are you dismissing abnormal people? Is that
critical thinking? Listen to the podcast?

Stop suspecting and start finding out.

Trump is the penultimate symbol of what modern day conservatism
has become, and conservatism is the force belittling any opposition
in the most bullying way ... it is his trademark for God's sake and I
am fairly surprised he doesn't sue other people or threaten to sue
them for trying it themselves. Nanny state ... and all the other
belittling comments are par for the Republican course, and the
major issues are taxes and regulation and privatizing what this country
owns as a nation. I am sorry if you do not like my comments about
our President, but no, will not leave out associations to him if I
think they are relevant to an issue. And you are free to disagree
with me. Let's try to be civil at least.


8 people like this
Posted by Supportive
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 18, 2018 at 10:21 pm

Supportive is a registered user.

Here is an example of what looks to be a very successful anti-sugar initiative in Chile: Web Link Look at how many companies reformulated their products to avoid the tax and labeling.

I am supportive of this tax, or something like it, because I think in aggregate, if enough municipalities take similar action, companies will take notice and will reformulate, and/or their may be similar policies at a higher level.

I disagree with posters who do not think this is an important issue. Our sub-par nutrition, and the fact that the cheapest foods are often the unhealthiest foods, is hurting our country, our economy, and our quality of life significantly. Even if you and your family are doing okay, the fact that so many are not is impacting you indirectly.

And I disagree with posters who think this smacks of being a nanny state or similar. Our country already heavily subsidizes many unhealthy foods. See Web Link This is no different, but in the "right" direction.


42 people like this
Posted by Scotty
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 18, 2018 at 10:47 pm

Crescent Park Anon..... Have a coke and a smile!


64 people like this
Posted by Personal Responsibility
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 18, 2018 at 11:20 pm

@CrescentParkAnon, simple question; where is the personal responsibility in all of this?

You lay it at the feet of Trump? For thousands of years, all of millennia, there are those that push their agenda, their motive, their GAIN. What the hell does Trump have to do with this?


51 people like this
Posted by Hawaiian Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2018 at 11:27 pm

Taxes like these are regressive. Tax rich dentists instead of poor people who just want a sweet snack.

@CrescentParkAnon - it is a slippery slope we are already sliding down - cigarette tax, alcohol tax, marijuana tax, now sugar tax. Fat tax will come next - why would you tax a coke but leave the Big Mac and Fries as non-revenue generating?


44 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2018 at 11:45 pm

I agree that the "slippery slope" analogy doesn't apply here.Daily it is evident that we already went down the slippery slope on regulation and taxation in California. Laws are proposed in the legislature and taken seriously that would get laughed off the floor in other states. We are neck deep in the nanny state already and I don't see that it has really solved many problems. You may not be able to recognize it if you haven't spent time living in other parts of the country, but pick a problem area and you'll be hard pressed to show that California is better off than many other states with less regulation/tax burden.
housing/homelessness - no
poverty - no
education - no
healthcare - no
infrastructure maintenance - no
looming pension disaster - no
tax burden - no ( you know that poor people do actually buy gas, cigarettes , soda, fast food, ...)


53 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 6:14 am

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

That didn't take long. As soon as they discovered little appetite for a new infrastructure tax they moved on to a new "sin tax" to wage war on obesity.

With a new basket of regressive taxes and the rezoning of the last remaining cultural neighborhoods for techie high rises, the liberal progressive council can complete its displacement of the Palo Alto poor into RV row and cardbaord condos in our parks and aling out of sight in our backstreet alleyways.


19 people like this
Posted by radar
a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2018 at 6:46 am

Logically, raw sugar in supermarkets should also be taxed. Why just atrget sodas ??


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2018 at 8:23 am

Once again if government wants to get involved in this there are a lot of ways government could do it rather than imposing taxes.

Ban sugar and corn syrup in processed foods where you don't expect them, e.g. pizza sauce, pasta sauce, meat products, etc.

Ban free refills and other freebies such as free 2 litre soda with large pizza order.

Ban buy two get one free deals with grocery multipacks.

Ban deals like empty soda can for half off price of movie ticket or theme park ticket.

It is the ease and marketing of obtaining soda that makes people consume more. If you have more soda in the home, the more will be drunk. It isn't like laundry detergent that if you buy more when it is on sale it will last longer. No, special deals on soda just means that there will be more drunk.

Preventing the sugar addictions is a good thing. Encouraging it by marketing ploys is not. Taxing an addiction won't help.


13 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 19, 2018 at 9:03 am

Another is a registered user.

It seems logical to knock sugar because it is the primary ingredient in what many would consider "junk food", such as candy, soda, ice cream, and so on.

However, anyone who has ever used a blood glucose meter on themselves will tell you that starch is virtually identical to sugar in terms of elevating blood sugar levels--which is the danger that sugar supposedly poses.

The inconvenient truth is that starchy foods--bread, tortillas, rice, bagels--that many regard as somehow more virtuous than "junk food" are just as bad, and sometimes even worse, than soda at spiking blood glucose levels.

So how about a city-wide tax on flour tortillas, white rice, and bagels? I doubt that would ever happen, even though such a tax would make as much sense as this proposed sugar tax.


6 people like this
Posted by click bait
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Apr 19, 2018 at 10:12 am

[Post removed.]


45 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2018 at 10:46 am

@ Personal Responsibility - I agree! I think that you've hit the crux of the issue. Why can't people just police themselves instead of having politicians use their own sociopolitical or moral compass to make demands of us?

I've never believed that government is supposed to ignore public sentiment and determine or influence our decisions down to something so routine as buying a can of soda to drink during lunch. We are much better at determining what is acceptable for our families than politicians or strongly-opinionated activists.


4 people like this
Posted by click bait
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Apr 19, 2018 at 10:49 am

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by click bait
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Apr 19, 2018 at 10:51 am

"I've never believed that government is supposed to ignore public sentiment and determine or influence our decisions down to something so routine" as stop signs?


4 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2018 at 10:57 am

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


41 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:13 am

@ click bait - There is a difference between a stop sign and a "sin tax" where a politician or group of politicians determine which sins to tax.


9 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 1:40 pm

"Personal Responsiblity"
>> @CrescentParkAnon, simple question; where is the personal responsibility in all of this?

I've posted at length, so I will answer that as soon as you answer where has the civic responsibility in business and global corporations gone. Corporations have changed so that they are ONLY responsible to their activist shareholders, most of whom are corporate officers of some sort who are actively squeezing regular citizens out of the political process in every way they can. American corporations are not responsible to the country, or for jobs any more. The corporatocracy, has succeeded in turning America into the same model as the third world countries we used to think we benefitted by military threats. In fact it is only Americans who seem to have a psychological block against perceiving what has been happening under their noses since Ronald Reagan. Even the Brits put Margaret Thatcher out on her butt with disgrace when she went too far.


"Hawaiian Bob", read my post again - carefully - and do not twist what I said.


11 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 1:54 pm

>> However, anyone who has ever used a blood glucose meter on themselves
>> will tell you that starch is virtually identical to sugar in terms of elevating
>> blood sugar levels--which is the danger that sugar supposedly poses.

identical you say ??????

[Portion removed.]

Complex discussions of glycemic index and glycemic load and the moderating
influence of fiber are way out of the scope of this discussion, but if you want a
basis to discuss it check out the link to the Commonwealth Club podcast I posted
earlier, there is a surprising amount of information in hearing all those doctors
and experts talk about what we really know and do not know, as opposed to
what people guess, feel or suspect.

The problem is not just blood sugar levels being elevated. Everyone's
blood sugar levels get elevated at some point.

Meat will also spike insulin levels, this is not about insulin levels
it is about long term massive health problems being caused by diet, and
unable to be affected in any way by the health care system or the food
production system because of the massive incomes it provides, and
how to break that negative cycle.


39 people like this
Posted by Personal Responsibility
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 19, 2018 at 2:16 pm

@Crescent Park, [Portion removed.] Let’s try this again.

What about personal responsibility?

Yes, corporations may seem to have taken over but how could that have happened except for people allowing it? People have choices, their $ speaks. Pepsi wouldn’t be pushing soda if they weren’t making bank on it. People have the choice not to buy it.

You keep laying this at the feet of conservatives where I would argue that years of liberal policy, of convincing people they’re unable to make smart choices, have created this generation of “sheeples”.


28 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Apr 19, 2018 at 4:01 pm

Palo Alto should be more direct about it with a per-pound tax on residents based on an annual weigh-in.


33 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 19, 2018 at 4:59 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

I wonder it the people who propose these rules (well meaning though they are) realize how complex and onerous these rules are to implement. Can we liberals choose our battles, and impose these regulations and taxes where it will actually matter? A national or state carbon tax? Great idea. A municipal vanity soda tax? Give me a break...


11 people like this
Posted by Supportive
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 19, 2018 at 5:08 pm

Are folks who are opposed to this opposed to speed limits as well?

Consuming large amounts of sugary beverages is strongly, causally correlated with a rise in a debilitating disease that costs us over $300 billion (not a typo) every year, and is growing at a frightening rate. People with diabetes (1 in 11 Americans right now) have health care costs 2.3 times greater than those without diabetes.

I am grateful for sincere, effective approaches to reducing this scourge. A tax on sugary beverages is a good start, and has proven effective in other municipalities. In my opinion, we should do much more, including making healthy foods more affordable.


4 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 5:36 pm

DTMPaul:
> I wonder it the people who propose these rules (well meaning though they are) realize how complex and onerous these rules are to implement.

You know, with all the computers and networking power those who are arguing for the ending of the internet moratorium on sales tax are saying - and the scope of this is the whole country - that it is not hard or "onerous" at all any more, implying that the issue should not be the old stereotypical one about heavy burdens on the business man.

Even if it was initially "onerous", it is an opportunity for someone to come up with an app or database widget that tracks all the tax rates nationwide and that businesses can subscribe to.

Think about Universal Health Care or Retirement Plans. I cannot imagine anything more burdensome or "onerous" than taking a company with a given expertise and forcing them to be experts in sourcing health care, or retirement plans, and yet many businesses do not seem to be want to be relieved of that "onerous" burden?


12 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 5:54 pm

Personal Responsibility, I don't think you dealt well with the question of corporate
civic responsibility. For instance why are we still getting food products like chocolate
covered Twinkies, aside from that some people still buy them. It is clear that there is
no incentives for companies to think at all about the health of citizens and customers.
They value profits over people, and profits over our country and costs they dump on
our country.

We tax cigarettes to subsidize cancer research and health care, what is the difference
here?

You want to lay everything at the feet of consumers, but it's not really true that I want
to blame corporations for everything, just for ignoring the things that they actively
spend money and influence to stop that have already proven to be intractable any
other way, and as well I believe corporations should have to deal with externalized
costs they dump on customers, the state, and the environment.

It has been 30 years or so since problems like plastic all over the ocean has been
known about and nothing changes. The cheapest way for corporations to avoid
those external costs is to lie about, which has a corrosive effect on our government
and our educational system that we now see is extremely pronounced, by the
difference in the way the US works and our outcomes versus the way the whole
rest of the developed world works, in areas like health care and education for example.

You know all this, that is you know the personal responsibility argument is a dishonest
dodge to come to the defense of corporations and business, used by polluters,
cigarette makers, auto-makers, etc, and yet we still here this argument so often
because it is so easy to say "where is the personal responsibility" 5 simple words
and force a big long refutal, and then brush that of by repeating the same thing
again and again. This is how Conservatives work.

And yes, Liberal legislators cave into this too because it has worked so well that
all our politicians dance to the tune of corporate money. So, really, speaking for
myself, I find it really hard to take this "personal responsibility" thing seriously,
and especially when most places where it is an issue are designed to be confusing
or remove personal responsibility and push people towards being irresponsible.

How much corporate profit is made by people who are nudged into irresponsibility,
to buying process foods because they live in food deserts, to do their banking with
check cashing places ... it is one of the main business models of the US now, and
I for one resent it and I don't think it adds anything to our strength and moral
authority as a nation.


52 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 6:24 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

Hmnnn,

The city can't bring itself to tax the office developments that are causing all our growth problems.

However, if the target of the tax wears hoodies, eats Skiddles and drinks Mountain Dew then it will pass faster than you can say Liberal hypocracy.


12 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 19, 2018 at 7:22 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:47 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]]


6 people like this
Posted by Homer
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 20, 2018 at 2:55 pm

It's about time that food which is filled with excessive sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup should have an additional tax. Soda is one of them and I can think of lot of other foods as well but this forum is for Soda so will stick to this topic. The money generated because of this additional tax on soda can be put to better use - educating people, free medical/dental care for people who can't afford, etc. All for this tax!


29 people like this
Posted by NoTax
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 20, 2018 at 3:33 pm

[Portion removed.]

PERSONAL CHOICE, SELF REGULATION AND CONTROL are the answers!!!! I don't need politicians deciding to TAX me on yet another one of their "pet" issues of the day!! Like others have said, whats next? Beef? Bread?, Ice Cream?


21 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Is the purpose of the tax to get people to drink less soda or to generate revenue for other things?

It has to be one or the other. It will definitely not make a difference to most people's health in Palo Alto.


25 people like this
Posted by Real Data
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 20, 2018 at 11:29 pm

To be clear - the stated goal of preventing obesity will not be achieved.

Soda taxes have been tried in dozens of counties around the world and cities across the US.

Here is what we know:

- the taxes raise revenue. That’s why governments love the tax.

- soda consumption goes down.

- obesity is unaffected. <—YES. THATS TRUE.

And it’s not like it has been overlooked, people have been looking HARD to find the effect they want to believe. It’s just not there. The reality is that we have a number of really good experiments in this area, and the ASSUMED relationship between soda and obesity just doesn’t hold up. Anywhere. Over multiple years in multiple countries and cities.

Now I don’t drink soda; none. And I imagine it is unhealthy and I’d like obesity to drop. But this tax doesn’t achieve the goal of lowering obesity. I wish it did, but wishes don’t make reality.

The tax achieves one thing: taking money from people and giving it to your government. That’s it.

If our city council members claim to vote as simply a way to raise taxes, then they are being honest.

But if it’s for obesity - then they are misleading you.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2018 at 1:43 am

The type of people who drink a lot of soda are the type of people who eat a lot of junk food. The type of people who eat a lot of junk food are the type of people who don't get much exercise.

It is a lifestyle change that is needed to overturn obesity.


25 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 21, 2018 at 1:21 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

"Last month, Horowitz made his case during the oral-communications portion of the meeting, when he argued that a sugar tax would both reduce consumption (and hence, combat obesity) and raise revenues for important health programs".

Very unlikely! That's a dream...wishful thinking, and a hope for something that will never happen. Okay, I'll concede that it will raise revenues, only because it won't stop anyone from drinking sodas or consuming any other sugar infused foods or the fast foods we all love that are full of calories. How will those new taxes be spent? I see kids coming into Piazzas, staring at their iPhones, and buying $7 boxes of sushi. They obviously have a lot of discretionary spending money, and I don't think adding a tax on anything edible/drinkable that teenagers like, will deter them, or alter their thinking or behavior about buying it. Does any clear headed PA resident/voter/CC member really believe that this is an important issue to be brought up, for us to think about, and seriously consider? Don't forget about our other big, much bigger, problems/issues we face.


10 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 21, 2018 at 1:36 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Remember that the CC decided to ignore the will of the voters and forgo the tax revenue on adult consumption of marijuana otherwise they'd be looking to tax munchies, too. Ironic considering the huge crowds out yesterday celebrating 420.


14 people like this
Posted by Ken Horowitz
a resident of University South
on Apr 21, 2018 at 4:21 pm

This is Ken Horowitz who has made this case to our City Council. Thank you all for your feedback on this subject. All are valid. I ask you to go to www.healthyberkeley.com to view the wonderful programs generated by their residents who were in support of the soda tax. These monies will not go into the Palo Alto City's general fund, but to a committee of local residents who will award grants from these dollars to worthy causes which have not been funded for years. I also ask you to view the Santa Clara County Public Health website to see how sugary drinks are uniquely harmful. It is not just obesity, but other chronic diseases that are affected such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and tooth decay. I agree that this is a personal choice but not when the amount spent on sugary drink advertising is over $1.2B targeting our most vulnerable population(our children). Over 50% of our middle and high school students report having one or more sugary drink per day. The soda industry has undermined our educational efforts to teach our kids properly. Do you think that the soda industry is really interested in our health? They understand that sugar is a food addiction. This is a very small tax on distributors of the sugary beverages only. If the supermarkets and grocery stores choose to pass the tax on to the customer, it is 20 cents extra for a 20 ounce soda. Finally all of us are paying with increased costs of our medical insurance for all the people with these chronic diseases mentioned above. The tobacco tax is working, and so would a soda tax in Palo Alto. Sugar consumption will go down. You all know that sugar is toxic to us all. I hope none of you drink these sugar sweetened beverages and I only ask for your support of this initiative. Thank you!


25 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2018 at 8:21 pm

"Resident" is correct. Sugar is not the cause. Government (and higher taxes) are not the solution. The bigger issue is INACTIVITY coupled with diet.

As someone pointed out earlier, there are many food items that can cause people to gain weight if they aren't living an active lifestyle. In my cultural background, the primary factor isn't soda, ice cream or other high-fructose items. It is things like lard, fat and fried foods in many items that are a normal part of the traditional "Mexican" diet.

I haven't had those problems. Why? I choose to live a healthier lifestyle. During college and graduate school, I worked hard to avoid the "freshmen fifteen" and "thesis defense nervous snacking." It actually wasn't that difficult because the foods that I chose to eat at the university cafeterias were largely healthier than the traditional Mexican meals that I ate at home anyway.

Mr. Horowitz mentioned that the tax would be "20 cents extra for a 20 ounce soda." That is a hefty tax! That adds $4.32 to a package of soda or Gatorade at Costco -- all because some people are overweight and activist-minded politicos think that a hefty tax like this might hypothetically cause people to be less inclined to buy soda. I suppose that it is just another "revenue grab" -- in which our pockets are the "revenue."

People don't need to be corralled and tax-coerced by Big Brother to live according to the lifestyle and diet that Big Brother expects.

The biggest contributing factor about health is ACTIVITY. As such, it would be better to simply have the city or schools educate the community about the importance of exercise and activity in our daily routines alongside good diet choices. This would be much more effective than targeting one beverage that contains one ingredient (either sugar or another sweetener) and it would target the actual cause.


1 person likes this
Posted by Archie Bunker
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2018 at 9:56 pm

-I haven't had those problems.

Then stifle Edith .... the world does not revolve around you.

- As such, it would be better to simply have the city or schools educate the community about the importance of exercise and activity in our daily routines alongside good diet choices.

This tax can pay for it.


19 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2018 at 11:19 pm

@ Archie: The point is that I -- like everyone else -- had a choice. It's not about me. It's about not sacrificing the liberty of the people or the government imposing their own views over personal responsibility.

During college, the government didn't need to make my decision for me. If I chose to eat tortillas or even NOT exercise, I didn't have to worry about the new American Politburo penalizing me or punishing me for a personal choice.

As for the education: The city doesn't need to tax us to accomplish this. They already send us letters with each month's utility bill. Schools can simply reinforce such things in existing classes.

By the way, since obesity is strongly an epidemic among individuals living on government assistance, then it might help to ban the use of assistance on junk foods.

I have no problem with that because taxpayers are paying for those choices. I'm not sure what the rules are for such things but I've seen individuals using "alternative" methods for paying for groceries buying everything from frozen pizzas to Cheetos and other junk food.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2018 at 7:41 am

Nayeli

I commend your idea about education and it would be wonderful if it works, but we can all turn a blind eye to learning what we don't want to hear. The recent problem on the Southwest flight and the pictures of all the passengers wearing their oxygen masks completely wrong shows that education doesn't work. Everybody gets told on the plane how to use a mask every time they fly, there's pictures on the plastic covering on the mask, there's a safety card in the seat, and yet people, all probably intelligent, reasonably well educated and very familiar with flying, they still all got it wrong.

It is the same with education about bad decisions about food. People will eat what they want to eat even if they know it isn't good for them. People know they need to get more exercise, but it is much easier to sit and watch tv or play on their phones than to go for a walk. People who smoke know it is bad for them but they have a hard time giving it up, or they manage for a short while, a week or a month and then something happens and they start again. The same can be said about eating better and getting more exercise.

I do agree though that taxing bad foods is not a wise move. People who want to drink soda will still do it and when Safeway has deals with buy one multi pack and get another free, they will just continue to buy it even with the hefty tax. The likelihood is that they will continue to buy the soda even if it means that they can't afford to buy the bag of apples or the carrots they may have done otherwise.

What government should be doing is to prevent all these hidden sugars from getting into products and to prevent the types of deals that make people consume more.

The free refills at fast food restaurants is a particularly American thing. They don't do it at the same establishments in Europe. You buy a soda which is filled behind the counter and that's it unless you buy another.

The special deals on multi packs of sodas encourages people to buy more which relates to drinking more. Soda is one of those things that if there is an abundance at home it will go faster, not that it will last longer before needing the supply replenished. In our house if there is soda it will be drunk by those who like it constantly until it is gone. That is a certain number of days and if there is a double amount of soda it will last the same number of days approximately. It won't last double the amount of days. Fortunately for us, we rarely buy soda for home and when it is gone everyone goes back to drinking more water instead.

There are places like movie theaters or theme parks that offer a discount if you bring an empty certain type of soda can. We have had to buy soda specially to get these discounts! Why can that be allowed?

Finally, allowing sugar and in particular corn syrup, to appear in so many places that sugar isn't expected should not be allowed either. Pizza sauce,
pasta sauce, meat products, etc. all contain hidden sugars. The breakfast cereals are reducing sugar in many brands, but there is still sugar there and it is very difficult to find a cereal that has zero sugar. Reducing these hidden sugars can make a big difference to someone trying to reduce their weight.

So government should stop trying to raise taxes on these foods as it won't help in my opinion. What government should be doing is preventing the marketing of sugar as freebies, discounts, promotions and in processed foods.


8 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 22, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 22, 2018 at 4:01 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

If these posts don't get the attention of our CC members, that are so prone to draft colleagues memos on anything and everything like this one for a soda tax, then I don't know what will. They are always behind the curve anyway, but are always in favor of whatever the ultra progressive voters in SF and Berkeley approved. Think independently and wisely for your own voting residents/constituents in PA!

I know the dentist's idea was well intended and meant to bring attention to a problem. But the solution part was also a problem and left a lot to be desired. A tax is not the answer.

Education about personal responsibility for our own health is so important. I see it all the time in news, online, cable, newspapers, et al. What will a soda tax add to that?

Come on CC! Stop wasting time on idling ordinances, soda taxes, bike boulevards, et al. We didn't vote for you to bring those non problems up as speaking points and your own personal pet projects. We wanted you to tackle the really big problems/issues confronting us in 'my town'. Please start soon, and don't wait for the next election cycle to occur.


10 people like this
Posted by Real Data
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 22, 2018 at 4:55 pm

This smells corrupt.

The proponent of this tax advocates an entirely new public body to spend (waste) our money:

“These monies will not go into the Palo Alto City's general fund, but to a committee ”


No doubt he wants to be on the committee, and choose where to waste this slush fund.

Where is the accountability?

What is the expected outcome?

How do we measure this outcome?

Is the goal really to reduce obesity as ideology? Because it looks to me like the goal has morphed into: spend the money we raise.

The tax has now become the goal.

That’s not a justifiable reason for a new tax.


12 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 22, 2018 at 6:04 pm

So let's see here - if the Soda Tax is implemented then we will need to hire more city workers to "manage" the soda tax department. And the state will have to have a Soda Tax Department. Then we will argue about what the revenue will be applied to - The General Fund? But there will be no revenue because the cost to manage this silly program will be in excess of the tax revenue generated. But a bunch of people will make political hay out of this to claim that they "did something". And when they run for office they will put this on their flyer. this needs to be put on the ballot for a vote and it will lose.


4 people like this
Posted by Penny for you thoughts
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 22, 2018 at 6:50 pm

We need more taxes to pay for things, people.
You want stuff but you don't want to pay for anything.


14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 22, 2018 at 9:15 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@resident, Hah! Please don't give them any ideas about staffing a Soda Tax Dept.!

@Penny, I sure don't want to pay for more road furniture or more people on staff or as consultants.

I'm sure lots of us would appreciate a refund and/or using those millions to pay down our unfunded pension liabilities.


8 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 24, 2018 at 6:28 pm

A few thoughts for anyone still reading...

Of course, the addition of sugar, by any of its many names, to packaged foods that would not have sugar if prepared at home is a significant problem. But beyond the reach of what most municipalities can readily address. A soda tax is relatively easy.

Why soda? Well, soda contains many calories but provides no nutritional value whatsoever. No one benefits from drinking soda and everyone benefits from reducing or ceasing consumption. It is the most obvious candidate.

Does a soda tax reduce consumption? A study conducted in Philadelphia and recently reported by the non-partisan Consumer Reports found "that the tax there led to a 40 percent reduction in daily soda consumption among residents in the two months after it took effect. The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, also found that there was a 38 percent drop in the total number of sodas consumed over a 30-day period." See Web Link

Like regular soda, studies have found diet soda to be linked with obesity, diabetes, etc. For example, see Web Link

While a glass of filtered sink water is fine for me, my suggestion for a soda replacement is Trader Joe's naturally flavored sparkling water. Comes in flavors including plain, lemon, lime, orange, berry, grapefruit, pineapple, colada, and cranberry-clementine. 1.25 liter bottle for a dollar.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Verve Coffee to start brewing in Palo Alto this Friday
By Elena Kadvany | 7 comments | 1,962 views

Premarital and Couples: Musings on Life
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,107 views

Why we are Warming
By Sherry Listgarten | 12 comments | 774 views

The summer bucket list
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 747 views

Cap On? Cap Off? The Cities Respond
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 731 views