Over the past few years, numerous attempts to pass a soda tax have failed, but, ultimately, they helped paved the way for a victory in Berkeley. As BMSG Senior Media Researcher Pamela Mejia points out, past soda tax failures "helped change the conversation surrounding the soda debate from one framed by big soda corporations to [one framed by] 'authentic community voices.'"
Media reporting and public buzz can help smart public health policy, such as Berkeley's soda tax, can gain traction quickly, explains Prevention Institute Executive Director Larry Cohen. Referencing BMSG's Lori Dorfman, he discusses how this soda tax victory, and even failed soda tax efforts before it, help to shape social norms and advance public health.
For all the phone calls, framing and other standard grassroots campaign techniques, what distinguished this year's soda tax campaigns in Berkeley and San Francisco was their powerful use of social media, which was amplified by organizations including BMSG.
Berkeley, California, has succeeded in passing a tax on sugary drinks. The win comes in spite of the soda industry's history of underhanded tactics, detailed in previous BMSG research, used to defeat such measures.
Voters in Berkeley have passed the nation's first soda tax focused on prevention and improving kids' health. In doing so, BMSG Director Lori Dorfman explains, the city continues its long history "of being first to a new cause that's later embraced more broadly." This article also appeared on Southern California Public Radio.