Richmond aims tax at sugary drinks

If voters agree, Richmond will become the first city in California to put a tax on “sweetened beverages” including sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and fruit-flavored drinks.

On next November’s ballot, Richmond voters will consider the new penny-per-ounce tax that would fund anti-obesity programs.

At last night’s Richmond City Council meeting, residents debated the proposed tax.

Wendel Brunner, Public Health Director of the Contra Costa Health Department, said Richmond faces an obesity epidemic where 32 percent of children and 24 percent of adults are considered obese.

Some residents thought the tax would provide much needed funds for health programs, while others were upset that the tax was even being considered. Resident Felix Hunziker wrote in an open letter:

“Apparently our council believes we’re incapable of thinking for ourselves or at the very least thinks a regressive tax is the only way to force all those low income, soda swilling Americans to mend their misguided ways.”

The tax was proposed by Councilman Jeff Ritterman who argued that just as tobacco taxes have helped reduce smoking, this tax could help reduce the amount of sugary drinks people consume.

Ritterman, former Chief of Cardiology at Kaiser Richmond Medical Center, said:

“We will be sentencing these kids to lives of early illness and early death if we don’t do something.”