Boulder Group Calls for Excise Tax on Sugary Soda and More

An image from the Healthy Boulder Kids Facebook page.
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Update below: Boulder has been named the least obese city in America multiple times in recent years — and a local group would like to keep it that way.

Healthy Boulder Kids is backing an initiative that calls for an excise tax to be placed on sugary beverages such as soda and other sweetened drinks.

As noted by the Boulder Daily Camera, the initiative — currently titled "Tax on the Distribution of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Products" — has been filed with the Boulder clerk's office, kicking off a fifteen-day review process.

Once the language is okayed, backers will have until June 28 to collect the 7,000 or so signatures needed to earn it a place on November's ballot.

The initiative, on view below in its entirety, points out that a tax of two cents per ounce of beverages that fit the measure's criteria (five grams of sugar or other sweetener per twelve ounces) will be imposed on distributors rather than consumers in Boulder — although that cost will presumably be passed along.

Boulder Group Calls for Excise Tax on Sugary Soda and More
File photo

The main description reads:

SHALL THE CITY OF BOULDER TAXES BE INCREASED BY $3.8 MILLION ANNUALLY AND BY SUCH AMOUNTS AS ARE RAISED ANNUALLY THEREAFTER BY THE IMPOSITION OF AN EXCISE TAX OF 2 CENTS PER OUNCE ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF DRINKS WITH ADDED SUGAR, AND SWEETENERS USED TO PRODUCE SUCH DRINKS, BUT EXEMPTING: (1) SWEETENERS SOLD SEPARATELY TO THE CONSUMER AT THE GROCERY STORE; (2) MILK PRODUCTS (3) BABY FORMULA (4) ALCOHOL, AND (5) DRINKS TAKEN FOR MEDICAL REASONS.

AND IN CONNECTION THEREWITH,

SHALL THE REVENUES COLLECTED BE USED BY THE CITY OF BOULDER TO ADEQUATELY ADMINISTER THE TAX AND SHALL THEY BE USED FOR HEALTH PROGRAMS IN THE CITY OF BOULDER THAT SUPPORT COMMUNITY HEALTH AND GENERAL WELLNESS BY FUNDING ACTIVITIES, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO, IMPROVING ACCESS TO DRINKING WATER, HEALTHY FOODS, NUTRITION EDUCATION, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY, AND HEALTH PROGRAMS IN BOULDER, ESPECIALLY FOR COMMUNITY MEMBERS WITH LOW INCOME AND THOSE MOST AT RISK FOR CHRONIC DISEASE LINKED TO SUGARY DRINK CONSUMPTION. SHALL THERE BE ESTABLISHED A COMMITTEE OF HEALTH EXPERTS TO DIRECT THE CITY COUNCIL ON HOW AND TO WHAT EXTENT THE CITY SHOULD ESTABLISH AND/OR FUND SUCH COMMUNITY HEALTH AND GENERAL WELLNESS PROGRAMS.

The Healthy Boulder Kids website lists the following reasons why such a tax is necessary.

• Sugary drinks are the single largest source of added sugar and caloric intake in the United States[i], and are a leading contributor to diabetes and obesity.

• These drinks cause significant harm to health that we all pay for in the form of increased health insurance premiums and taxes to support public health programs, and it keeps getting worse.

• Taxes on sugary drinks are proven way to decrease consumption and improve health.

Those listed among endorsers of the concept include Jorge De Santiago, executive director of El Centro AMISTAD in Boulder, Nicole Christensen, owner of CrossFit Roots, and Dr. Eric Harker.

Should the proposal make the ballot, we're guessing that executives at Coca-Cola won't be adding their voice of support.

Update: After the original publication of this post, we received the following comment from Christopher Howes, executive director of the Colorado Beverage Association, which opposes the excise-tax idea:

The Colorado Beverage Association believes that beverage taxes are misguided and ineffective policies that have no meaningful impact on public health. 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.

Here's the initiative in its current form.


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