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November votes include green lights on soda, tobacco taxes

November 11, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

Communities in California, Colorado and Illinois voted in new soda taxes in November, while California state voters approved a new tobacco tax.

Distributors of sugar-sweetened drinks, including iced teas, smoothies and soft drinks, in San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, will pay an additional cent per ounce after voters in all three California municipalities supported the tax increase.

Voters in Boulder, Colorado, meanwhile, approved a two-cent-per-ounce tax on distributors of beverages with at least five grams of added sugar per 12 ounces. Alcoholic and medical beverages, milk products and 100 percent juice drinks are exempt from the tax, according to the local newspaper, The Daily Camera.

The Cook County Board in Illinois on Nov. 10 approved a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary and artificially sweetened drinks. The increase will affect the county's 5.2 million residents, which includes those in the city of Chicago, becoming the largest U.S. region to impose a soda tax.

Earlier this year, Philadelphia became the first city to impose a soda tax when its city council approved a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar sweetened and diet beverages, including soda, juices, sports drinks and flavored water.

Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist in Augusta, Maine, and a national media spokesman for the ADA, said he anticipates more and more communities will be "looking at soda taxes as an option."

"Increasing the cost of soda and sugar-sweetened beverages will ultimately reduce their consumption, which is of great value for dental professionals," Dr. Shenkin said, encouraging dentists to start or join campaigns supporting soda taxes at home.

"Dentists in their local communities can step up and serve as a resource educating about the harm of excessive sugar-sweetened beverage consumption," he said.

In October, the World Health Organization released a report that said putting a tax on sugary drinks "can lower consumption and reduce obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay."

In November 2015, the ADA House of Delegates formally endorsed the World Health Organization's recommendation to limit added sugar consumption to less than 10 percent of daily caloric intake.  

Tobacco

California voters on Nov. 8 overwhelmingly approved Proposition 56, sponsored in part by the California Dental Association, that increases the state cigarette tax by $2 per pack, with equivalent increase on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. Unofficial election results show that almost 63 percent of voters said "yes" to the tax, while 37 percent voted against it.

The California Dental Association released a statement saying it is excited that the measure passed overwhelmingly.

"Proposition 56 will save thousands of lives, save the health care system billions of dollars and provide substantial new funding for the state's Medi-Cal program so more patients can get care," the CDA said. "Also, the state oral health program overseen by California's dental director will now receive $30 million per year, a tenfold increase in state funding for a program that has not previously had a dedicated revenue source."