Advocates bulking up for the next battle with Big Soda

printer friendlyprinter friendly

In the aftermath of two failed measures that would have taxed sugar-sweetened beverages at a penny-per-ounce, the beverage industry has been flexing its muscles and kicking sand in the faces of soda tax proponents.

Just like those old comic book ads in which a scrawny man and his girlfriend are lounging by the seashore when a big muscular guy comes over to bully them, Big Beverage poured $3.7 million to defeat soda tax measures in Richmond and El Monte in southern California. In Richmond alone, the beverage industry outspent supporters by 35 to 1. In all, Big Soda spent $115 per vote.

But, just like the ad for famed bodybuilder Charles Atlas' muscle-building program, being pushed around on the beach only motivated scrawny guy to bulk up so he could come back and defeat muscle man once and for all.

It's that bodybuilder-scrawny man dynamic that pushed Richmond resident Jenny Wang over the edge.

"The thing that affected me most was that here we were a small grassroots group fighting multi-billion dollar corporations," said Wang. "That stark contrast made me more passionate. I developed such a disdain for these large corporations essentially buying this election."

Wang, a public health professional who works in Oakland, became interested in the Richmond tax proposal after hearing about it from fellow residents.

"I was already convinced taxing sugar-sweetened beverages was a good idea, but I was just confused about (Measure N) and where the money would go. After I learned that it would be used to support programs aimed at fighting the obesity epidemic that soda has been such a major cause of, I was immediately on board," recalled Wang.

Richmond's Measure O, which passed but was made moot by the defeat of its companion Measure N, would have advised the city to use the tax proceeds, estimated to be around $3 million annually, on after-school activity programs, parks, diabetes education and other programs to fight childhood obesity. A measure in El Monte in southern California that was similar to Measure N lost 77 to 23.

"We lost the election, but the movement will eventually win," Dr. Jeff Ritterman told the San Francisco Chronicle. Ritterman is the Richmond city councilman who sponsored the tax proposal.

The newspaper quoted Berkeley City Councilwoman Linda Maio as saying: "Are we daunted by what happened in Richmond? Not at all. Not one bit."

Others were also quoted, including a Half Moon Bay resident who, inspired by Richmond, is lobbying San Mateo County officials to move ahead with a soda tax.

Ritterman has announced a new goal to see 14 California cities put forth soda tax proposals by 2014, with the idea that this flurry of measures would stretch the beverage industry's resources so thin that this might allow a few of the ballot proposals to pass.

For Wang, the fight against Big Soda is personal.

"I come from a low-income family of savers and coupon clippers. I can't get my family to not buy soda when it's on sale. When you can buy a 2-liter bottle of soda for 99 cents, or get a 12-pack of soda free when you buy the first pack, you're going to buy the soda over the bottled water," said Wang. "I have aunts and uncles with diabetes. It's hurting my family. It's hurting me."

Although Ritterman and soda tax supporters like Wang were understandably disappointed by the losses, they are bolstered by the lessons learned in the soda tax campaigns -- not least that money buys votes, as noted nutrition and public policy expert Marion Nestle pointed out in a recent San Francisco Chronicle editorial.

"But it also taught (us) that appeals to voter concerns about higher prices, job losses and personal autonomy are more effective than appeals based solely on health considerations," Nestle told the Chronicle.

Wang agreed, and has taken such lessons to heart for the next go-round.

"We framed the health message. (Big Soda) framed the cost message, saying that it would hike up the cost of buying groceries and hit low-income people the hardest. We should borrow that frame," said Wang. "The health costs of obesity is coming out of your pocket. That's the bottom line."

social justice (1) Gardasil (1) Sam Kass (1) elephant triggers (1) values (1) Twitter (1) healthy eating (1) sports drinks (1) gender (1) beauty products (1) Connecticut shooting (1) sandusky (2) autism (1) marketing (1) San Francisco (3) prevention (1) white house (1) paper tigers (1) social math (1) youth (1) race (1) stigma (1) Citizens United (1) Texas (1) naacp (1) social change (1) soda warning labels (1) Newtown (1) prison system (1) diabetes prevention (1) news monitoring (1) Nickelodeon (1) suicide barrier (2) obesity (10) Whiteclay (4) framing (14) Proposition 29 (1) measure N (2) Twitter for advocacy (1) Big Food (2) Michelle Obama (1) cancer research (1) Merck (1) media bites (1) diabetes (1) new year's resolutions (1) personal responsibility (3) ssb (1) media analysis (5) communication (2) violence (1) Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (2) obesity prevention (1) breastfeeding (3) Big Soda (2) liana winett (1) indoor smoking ban (1) gatorade bolt game (1) privilege (1) Let's Move (1) cap the tap (1) Amanda Fallin (1) Proposition 47 (1) Dora the Explorer (1) news analysis (2) inequities (1) george lakoff (1) default frame (1) cervical cancer (1) health care (1) Catholic church (1) SSBs (1) front groups (1) sexual assault (1) paula deen (1) sanitation (1) vaccines (1) Golden Gate Bridge (2) women's health (2) corporate social responsibility (1) filibuster (1) sexual health (1) messaging (3) news strategy (1) HPV vaccine (1) physical activity (1) Bill Cosby (1) soda industry (4) health equity (10) food access (1) Telluride (1) Food Marketing Workgroup (1) Coca-Cola (3) food and beverage marketing (3) Marion Nestle (1) cigarette advertising (1) personal responsibility rhetoric (1) Penn State (3) tobacco control (2) child sexual abuse (5) junk food (2) Richmond (5) Wendy Davis (1) government intrusion (1) El Monte (3) water (1) Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (1) campaign finance (1) Happy Meals (1) food swamps (1) language (6) childhood obesity (1) apha (2) soda taxes (1) abortion (1) institutional accountability (1) seat belt laws (1) children's health (3) water security (1) snap (1) media (7) Colorado (1) advocacy (3) sugary drinks (10) alcohol (5) public health data (1) adverse childhood experiences (3) food (1) childhood trauma (3) product safety (1) nanny state (2) food marketing (3) tobacco industry (2) prison phone calls (1) suicide nets (1) racism (1) violence prevention (8) SB 1000 (1) food justice (1) equity (3) beverage industry (2) world water day (1) Joe Paterno (1) suicide prevention (2) Bloomberg (3) junk food marketing to kids (2) chronic disease (2) auto safety (1) food deserts (1) Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes (1) media advocacy (20) Oakland Unified School District (1) soda (12) political correctness (1) sugar-sweetened beverages (2) environmental health (1) news (2) community safety (1) Measure O (1) regulation (2) social media (2) Rachel Grana (1) reproductive justice (1) Big Tobacco (3) PepsiCo (1) california (1) sexism (2) Sandy Hook (2) public health (65) Johnson & Johnson (1) SB-5 (1) American Beverage Association (1) online marketing (1) SB 402 (1) summer camps (1) election 2016 (1) Donald Trump (2) news coverage (1) Jerry Sandusky (3) Tea Party (1) choice (1) public health policy (2) education (1) genital warts (1) gun violence (1) tobacco tax (1) ACEs (2) FCC (1) food industry (4) digital marketing (2) Oglala Sioux (3) McDonald's (1) democracy (1) mental health (2) cancer prevention (1) community health (1) emergency contraception (1) gun control (2) childhood adversity (1) Berkeley (2) food environment (1) Chile (1) collaboration (1) industry appeals to choice (1) soda tax (11) Aurora (1) childhood lead poisoning (1) journalism (1) cosmetics (1) sexual violence (2) Pine Ridge reservation (1) built environment (2) weight of the nation (1) target marketing (7) structural racism (1) community violence (1) junk food marketing (3) childhood obestiy conference (1) tobacco (5)
  • Follow Us On Facebook
  • Follow Us On Twitter
  • Join Us On Youtube
  • BMSG RSS Feed

get e-alerts in your inbox: