Voters in Richmond and El Monte, California, have rejected measures that would have taxed soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks at a penny-perounce rate. According to media sources, Richmond City Councilmember Jeff Ritterman initially proposed Measure N as a way to discourage residents from consuming sugary drinks, which he identified as a prime culprit behind the rise in diabetes, obesity, heart failure, and other related issues.

“I’m disappointed, but overall I think this has been a positive for Richmond,” said Ritterman. “It’s started a great conversation in this community. I think President Obama should (propose a soda tax). [Governor] Jerry Brown should. This is just the beginning of the wave.” See San Francisco Chronicle, November 7, 2012.

While 67 percent of Richmond’s electorate apparently voted against Measure N, 77 percent of voters in the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte also rejected a soft drink tax—an outcome that a November 7 Huffington Post article attributed to industry-sponsored campaigns against the measures. “The two cities were inundated with anti-soda tax campaign ads and occupied by paid canvassers throughout the fall,” reported HuffPo’s Joe Satran. “As of October 20, the last date for which records are available, the American Beverage Association (ABA) had spent $2.5 million fighting Richmond’s Measure N and $1.3 million fighting El Monte’s Measure H, dwarfing spending by those campaigning in favor of the taxes.” Additional details about Richmond’s proposal appear in Issue 453 of this Update.

Meanwhile, the American Public Health Association’s (APHA’s) Governing Council has reportedly adopted several new policies, including one that would impose taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages. According to “The Pump Handle” blog, APHA recently concluded its 140th Annual Meeting and Exposition, which addressed “Prevention and Wellness through the Lifespan” and attracted more than 12,500 public health professionals.

“Among other things, the APHA policy expresses support for taxes imposed at the federal, state, or local level on sugar-sweetened beverages,” reports the blog. “The tax would raise the average price of sugar-sweetened beverages and reduce demand for them. It would also generate revenue for the taxing entity. A penny per ounce tax, for example, could raise nationwide over $13 billion annually.” See The Pump Handle, November 5, 2012.