Author Archives: Mina Kim

Soda Tax Advocates Undeterred by Election Defeats

The American Beverage Association spent $2.5 million fighting the soda tax initiatives in Richmond and El Monte. (Kristin Farr/KQED)

The American Beverage Association spent $2.5 million fighting the soda tax initiatives in Richmond and El Monte. (Kristin Farr/KQED)

In Tuesday’s election, Richmond voters may have flatly rejected a move to make sodas more expensive, but it seems Richmond city councilman Jeff Ritterman isn’t ready to end his campaign to tax sugary drinks.

“I’m thinking we should do ‘14 in ’14’ — try 14 cities in 2014,” Ritterman said on election night, even as early returns foreshadowed the tax measure’s failure. “Let’s make [the soda industry] fight it in 14 cities.”

That didn’t sound like an idea completely off the top of his head, so I called California Center for Public Health Advocacy and talked to Harold Goldstein. He is a passionate advocate about the health risks of sugar sweetened beverages. His agency is advising cities interested in implementing sugar-sweetened beverage taxes and sponsored two attempts at a statewide tax.

“The first time tobacco taxes were proposed, they lost by large margins, too.”

Goldstein wouldn’t say how many cities he’s working with now — only that in the next few years, “we’ll see a lot more of them.” He said municipalities haven’t been spooked by crushing soda tax defeats in Richmond and El Monte. More than 66 percent of voters in both cities had rejected the penny-per-ounce tax on businesses selling sugary drinks, a cost businesses had been expected to pass on to consumers. Continue reading

Can a Penny-an-Ounce Soda Tax Curb Obesity?

Jorge Cota has lost more than 70 pounds since giving up soda and making other changes to his diet. (Mina Kim: KQED)

Jorge Cota, 17, has lost more than 70 pounds since giving up soda and making other changes to his diet. (Mina Kim: KQED)

Jorge Cota says he always gets a little nervous when he comes to Children’s Hospital in Oakland for his bi-monthly weigh-in.

“I’m wondering oh, did I lose this much weight, or did I not lose this much, if I gain weight I’m going to be mad,” says the 17-year-old high school football player from Tracy. “It’s just a lot of things going through my mind that I get nervous about when I come to the doctors, especially here.”

It was here at Children’s, about a year ago, that Jorge learned his health was in trouble.

“They told me that I was a pre-diabetic, that I also had high blood pressure, and they thought there was something wrong with my heart or my kidneys.”

“It was a scary moment,” Jorge’s mom Linda Ramos says. “When they were telling us, he started crying, he was scared, and that woke him up.”

At 16, Jorge was 5’11” and weighed 321 pounds.

“So I was a pretty big boy,” Jorge says with a smile.

His drink of choice was Dr. Pepper. Jorge says he’d drink two or three cans or bottles of soda a day. That added up to as much as 50 teaspoons of sugar.

“We just cut it out,” Linda Ramos says. “Not only the soda cut out, the way I cook at home for him, the junk food, the way we shop.” Continue reading