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."


beverage industry (2) news strategy (1) gun violence (1) diabetes (1) SB-5 (1) suicide barrier (2) seat belt laws (1) Pine Ridge reservation (1) environmental health (1) choice (1) tobacco tax (1) social media (2) community health (1) SB 402 (1) genital warts (1) sexual violence (2) mental health (2) Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (2) social math (1) Merck (1) media advocacy (22) health care (1) childhood obestiy conference (1) SSBs (1) Michelle Obama (1) authentic voices (1) Sam Kass (1) HPV vaccine (1) Measure O (1) equity (3) soda industry (4) food (1) news monitoring (1) Twitter for advocacy (1) marketing (1) values (1) gender (1) Golden Gate Bridge (2) election 2016 (1) cap the tap (1) Penn State (3) Whiteclay (4) Dora the Explorer (1) filibuster (1) built environment (2) racism (1) news (2) industry appeals to choice (1) Colorado (1) government intrusion (1) cigarette advertising (1) chronic disease (2) public health data (1) Let's Move (1) women's health (2) food swamps (1) Oakland Unified School District (1) soda tax (11) soda warning labels (1) news coverage (1) cancer prevention (1) water (1) obesity (10) tobacco (5) food and beverage marketing (3) breastfeeding (3) liana winett (1) new year's resolutions (1) diabetes prevention (1) prevention (1) FCC (1) junk food marketing (4) autism (1) paula deen (1) junk food (2) institutional accountability (1) personal responsibility (3) Bloomberg (3) democracy (1) Connecticut shooting (1) Marion Nestle (1) cervical cancer (1) messaging (3) collaboration (1) race (1) Proposition 47 (1) social change (1) personal responsibility rhetoric (1) sexual assault (1) youth (1) San Francisco (3) public health (68) auto safety (1) Chile (1) cosmetics (1) Newtown (1) front groups (1) ACEs (2) American Beverage Association (1) cannes lions festival (1) Jerry Sandusky (3) Citizens United (1) healthy eating (1) child sexual abuse (5) prison phone calls (1) sanitation (1) Nickelodeon (1) nonprofit communications (1) violence prevention (8) physical activity (1) Food Marketing Workgroup (1) nanny state (2) El Monte (3) cancer research (1) language (6) Black Lives Matter (1) sugar-sweetened beverages (2) indoor smoking ban (1) weight of the nation (1) soda (12) corporate social responsibility (1) Rachel Grana (1) Texas (1) community (1) childhood adversity (1) online marketing (1) food justice (1) Bill Cosby (1) snap (1) Joe Paterno (1) Big Food (2) elephant triggers (1) default frame (1) tobacco industry (2) food access (1) obesity prevention (1) abortion (1) world water day (1) george lakoff (1) communication strategy (1) food deserts (1) gun control (2) Big Soda (2) SB 1000 (1) junk food marketing to kids (2) gatorade bolt game (1) Tea Party (1) childhood obesity (1) beauty products (1) white house (1) Amanda Fallin (1) Wendy Davis (1) structural racism (1) vaccines (1) media (7) Coca-Cola (3) target marketing (8) apha (2) product safety (1) Sandy Hook (2) Johnson & Johnson (1) Big Tobacco (3) media bites (1) prison system (1) food environment (1) naacp (1) Happy Meals (1) McDonald's (1) social justice (1) Catholic church (1) safety (1) childhood lead poisoning (1) water security (1) soda taxes (2) food industry (4) children's health (3) Oglala Sioux (3) privilege (1) Richmond (5) sexual health (1) health equity (10) measure N (2) suicide nets (1) Telluride (1) PepsiCo (1) tobacco control (2) communication (2) emergency contraception (1) Twitter (1) political correctness (1) childhood trauma (3) violence (2) ssb (1) adverse childhood experiences (3) Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (1) advocacy (3) inequities (1) sexism (2) Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes (1) digital marketing (2) community organizing (1) paper tigers (1) education (1) suicide prevention (2) media analysis (5) framing (14) news analysis (3) journalism (1) Gardasil (1) sports drinks (1) regulation (2) public health policy (2) alcohol (5) summer camps (1) sugary drinks (10) reproductive justice (1) community safety (1) campaign finance (1) sandusky (2) california (1) community violence (1) stigma (1) Berkeley (2) Donald Trump (2) food marketing (4) Proposition 29 (1) Aurora (1)
  • Follow Us On Facebook
  • Follow Us On Twitter
  • Join Us On Youtube
  • BMSG RSS Feed

get e-alerts in your inbox: