Soda and other sugary drinks—including sports and energy drinks, fruit drinks, and sweetened coffee and tea—account for nearly half of the added sugars Americans consume.

That should come as no surprise. A 20-ounce bottle of regular soda has about 15 teaspoons of added sugars—more than the 12 teaspoons a day recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for people eating a typical 2,000-calorie diet.

People who consume more sugary drinks have a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

One effective strategy to help people cut back: sugary-drink taxes.

Seven U.S. cities now tax sugary drinks, as do dozens of countries, including Mexico. The U.S. taxes range from 1 to 2 cents per ounce, or 20 to 40 cents for a 20 oz. bottle.

Soda taxes are already paying off. In Philadelphia and in Berkeley, California, for example, sugary-soda sales have dropped while sales of healthier drinks like bottled water have climbed.

It’s a win-win. People consume fewer sugary drinks while cities raise revenue to support increased access to fruits and vegetables, to educate kids, and for quality childcare or other priorities, especially in communities facing the greatest health disparities.

Not surprisingly, the soda industry has gone apoplectic. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and other soda giants have fought local soda taxes tooth and nail, pouring millions into campaigns to convince voters that a tax would lead to massive job losses and put corner stores out of business.

So far—what a surprise!—that hasn’t happened. In fact, Berkeley saw overall beverage sales go up and Philadelphia saw no drop in employment after the taxes went into effect.

Enter Plan B. Taking a page out of Big Tobacco’s playbook, the soda industry is turning to state laws to block cities from implementing soda taxes, just as the tobacco industry blocked local clean indoor air laws in the 1980s and 1990s.

So far, Michigan, Arizona, California, and Washington State have passed laws taking control away from cities that want to protect their communities’ health and raise money for local needs.

How did the pop pushers do it?

In Washington, for example, they bombarded voters with deceptive ads leading people to believe that a ballot initiative would ban taxes on basic groceries, not just on soda.

In contrast, advocates in Oregon were able to counter Big Soda’s misinformation campaign, and voters there rejected a measure to ban local soda taxes.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Nutrition Action’s publisher, is working with our partners to expose the soda industry’s misleading tactics.

Cities have a right to protect their citizens’ health without interference from Big Soda’s cynical schemes to protect its own profits.

Peter G. Lurie, MD, MPH, President

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Photo: Americans for Food and Beverage Choice.