Tax on sugary drinks passed in first US city

'Yes' sign in shop window Image copyright Reuters

The US city of Berkeley in California has voted in favour of a tax on sugary drinks, the first specifically targeting soda consumption in the US.

However, nearby San Francisco has not backed a similar measure.

Although final votes were still being counted, Berkeley - which required a simple 50% majority - backed the measure with the support of about two-thirds of voters.

San Francisco failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed.

The vote was being watched across the US, in large part because the drinks industry reportedly spent millions of dollars fighting the taxes.

Berkeley is to levy a one-cent per ounce tax on sugary beverages, a move that supporters say will reduce consumption and battle obesity and diabetes.

The proposal in San Francisco was to add two cents per ounce.

There have been about 30 previous attempts to introduce a soda tax in US states and cities, all of which failed.

Supporters hope that the Berkeley breakthrough will send a message to the rest of the country.

"What the soda industry is worried about is momentum, you win one and it makes it easier to win the next one and the next one," said Michael Roberts, executive director of the Resnick Program for Food Law & Policy at UCLA Law School.

But opponents say Berkeley, with its high student population, is not representative and will have little impact on the health debate.

"Berkeley doesn't look like mainstream America," said Christopher Gindlesperger, a spokesman for the American Beverage Association. "If politicians in the country want to stake their reputations on what Berkeley is doing, they will do so at their own risk."

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