A third of American adults in most states are obese and childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the past three decades. Yet we can’t turn on the television without getting hit with a constant flood of marketing for sugary drinks products from the soda industry targeting our kids.
As a physician who volunteers with the American Heart Association and as the leader of El Centro de la Raza, we are proud to serve alongside volunteers, the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, Children’s Alliance, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and others in our campaign as we work to defeat Initiative 1634. This measure would take local control away from towns and cities across Washington — communities already struggling to support much-needed local programs. When you fill out your ballot this election, please join us in voting no on the soda industry’s Initiative 1634.
A third of American adults in most states are obese, and childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the past three decades. Yet we can’t turn on the television without getting hit with a constant flood of marketing for sugary-drinks products from the soda industry targeting our kids. And now, we have an election in November where those same soda companies are spending $13 million to support I-1634. Nonprofits and neighborhood programs across our state cannot match the soda industry’s $13 million ad campaign, but we can be straight with voters. Here are three things you should know about I-1634:
- Groceries like produce, meats, milk and bread are already exempt from sales taxes in Washington.
- 98 percent of Initiative 1634’s funding comes from the soda industry, currently $13 million from just five companies, including Pepsi, Coke and Keurig Dr Pepper.
- I-1634 was written by lawyers for the soda industry to eliminate local control for voters in our towns and cities.
I-1634 is part of a nationwide plan by Big Soda to protect profits by reducing local control. Every town has unique needs and their own approach for addressing local challenges. By voting no on I-1634, we keep the power to solve local problems with local communities instead of handing over control to soda industry boardrooms.
We have seen soda-industry representatives on the campaign trail, but we haven’t seen any soda-industry executives telling the public how this initiative protects their profits at the expense of Washington residents. Instead, they pay spokespeople to spread false information on social media, television and radio. We can’t escape the swarm of ads funded by the soda industry on television or radio. But what we won’t see or hear in any of those ads are soda-industry executives explaining what I-1634 is really trying to do.
Our campaign to oppose I-1634 can’t match their spending budget, but we can share facts. Philadelphia chose a tax on sugary drinks and recently reported that unemployment actually declined in economic sectors related to the beverage industry. In Berkeley, a study of shoppers’ grocery receipts found that grocery bills stayed stable in the first year of their sugary-drink tax. Washingtonians should be armed with facts and make the decision to reject I-1634.
Seattle is already expanding investments in community programs from this revenue and will soon be able to invest an estimated $21 million in community organizations that support summer school programs, increase access to healthy food choices for low-income families and help pay for community college scholarships for Seattle high school graduates. A tax on sugary drinks will not always be a community’s preferred choice. Rejecting I-1634 means that voters are sending a clear signal that we want to preserve local control of our own decision-making instead of giving up that power at the direction of the soda industry.
Every community is unique — that’s part of what makes our state such a great place to live. Some towns will be interested in taxing sugary drinks to help invest in local programs to provide healthy food to kids or fund education. We must protect the ability of voters to make these kinds of choices that make the most sense for their own communities. Protect local control and vote no on I-1634.