Skip to Content

California Ban on Soda Taxes Won’t Stop Health Advocates

On June 28, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law banning taxes on sugary drinks in the nation’s most populated state. The beverage industry may consider this a major victory, but health advocates are already rallying for change.


The American Cancer Society—Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association and about 20 other groups issued a joint statement last week opposing the measure.

“This is one of the worst pieces of legislation I have seen in more than 30 years spent fighting for better health for kids and families,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said in a news release.

The law forbids new local taxes on sugary drinks for the next 12 years. And while the soda industry is expected to try to duplicate its triumph elsewhere, one public policy expert warned that what happened in California might actually backfire in other states.

The legislation was part of a last-minute political deal to stop a different tax initiative that the beverage industry helped place on California’s November ballot. That measure would have prevented local communities from raising any kind of tax without first getting two-thirds “supermajority” approval from voters.

The beverage industry withdrew that initiative from the ballot after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the local-tax moratorium into law. The Sacramento Bee reported this week that Brown met with top soda industry officials weeks before signing the bill.

In a bold move on July 2, the California Medical Association and the California Dental Association announced plans to propose a 2020 ballot measure that would include a statewide sugary drink tax and would repeal the ban on local taxes.

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown made the following comments after the announcement:

“The ‘Soda Shakedown’ of 2018 may have been about sugar, but it leaves a distinctly sour aftertaste. The backroom dealing and appalling tactics of the soda industry are truly sickening. Unfortunately, that’s appropriate. Overconsumption of sugary beverages is sickening too many people in our nation.

“Soda taxes are working well in four California cities – reducing consumption while funding nutrition and activity programs that counter the effects of these insidiously marketed products. We all pay the price for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, dental disease and other largely preventable chronic illnesses. Cheap soda is no bargain.

“Californians have voted four times for sugary drink taxes because they know these beverages are harmful and revenue funds critical health and education programs. We were disappointed that the American Beverage Association, and their member companies, went to such great lengths to take away the right of Californians to vote for better health.

“The tsunami of chronic diseases we face as a nation threatens our future. We will be relentless in our work with communities across the state to improve public health through a statewide tax and to restore the rights of Californians to vote for what they believe best supports health in their state.

“The American Heart Association stands side by side with the California Medical Association and the California Dental Association as we fight for the health of all Californians. This is the kind of health leadership California is known for.”


Read the original story from American Heart Association News to learn more about California’s ban on soda taxes.


Want to get involved? Join the Sugary Drink Action Team!