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Sugary Drinks Facing Potential Taxation in Boulder, CO

Sugary Drinks Facing Potential Taxation in Boulder, CO

The proposed measure is intended to raise $3.8 million annually and support “health and general wellness" through greater access to healthy foods, nutrition education, physical activity and health programs.

The residents of Boulder, Colorado may decide in the fall whether to impose a 2-cents-per-ounce excise tax on sugary drinks.

An organization known as Healthy Boulder Kids is seeking to place the initiative on the November ballot in the left-leaning city that has been described as “The Berkeley of the Rockies."

The proposed measure is intended to raise $3.8 million annually and support “health and general wellness" through greater access to healthy foods, nutrition education, physical activity and health programs, particularly for low-income residents and people who are most vulnerable to chronic disease linked to consumption of sugary beverages.

Drinking one sugar-sweetened beverage a day increases the risks for childhood obesity, developing type 2 diabetes, and the likelihood of death from cardiovascular disease, according to the proposal.

The measure would tax distributors of sugary beverages and exclude certain drinks, including alcohol, baby formula, milk products and drinks taken for medical reasons. If approved by voters, the tax would become effective July 1, 2017.

John Lamson, a spokesman for the Healthy Boulder Kids coalition, said he believes roughly the signatures of 6,000 to 7,000 registered voters will be needed to get the measure on the November ballot, the Boulder Daily Camera reported.

“Today, excessive consumption of sugar drinks is costing Boulder’s citizens an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and tooth decay," said Michael Jacobson, president of the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), in a statement. “The proposed tax is a good step toward reducing those costs."

Boulder is well-known for its outdoor activities and active lifestyles. But the organization behind the planned ballot measure said obesity in the city has doubled since 2000.

“The people of Boulder value health and fitness, and this measure is a way to provide more access and opportunities to programs for those families and kids who sometimes get left behind," said Jorge De Santiago, executive director of El Centro AMISTAD, a nonprofit organization in Boulder catering to immigrants. His statement and other endorsements of the tax proposal were displayed on Healthy Boulder Kids’ website.

Similar initiatives have produced mixed results. In November 2014, citizens in Berkeley, California voted to impose a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on the distribution of most sugary drinks, reportedly becoming the first city in the nation to do so. San Francisco voters rejected a similar measure. Earlier in 2014, an appeals court dealt a final blow to an anti-obesity measure in New York City that restricted the size of sugary drinks.

"We believe beverage taxes are misguided and ineffective policies that have no meaningful impact on public health," said Christopher Howes, executive director of the Colorado Beverage Association, in an emailed statement. "Many cities across the country, including Telluride in 2013, have rejected similar taxes. And in a city continually ranked as the most fit in Colorado, this tax proposal will only hurt small businesspeople and those who rely, in part, on beverage sales for their livelihoods."

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