City of San Francisco Sugary Drink Tax, Proposition E (November 2014)

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A City of San Francisco Sugary Drink Tax, Proposition E ballot measure was on the November 4, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of San Francisco, California, where it was defeated.

A similar measure was also on the November ballot in Berkeley. It was approved.

This measure, which would have imposed a $0.02 per ounce tax on sugary beverages in San Francisco, was introduced by city supervisor Scott Wiener. The tax would have amounted to a 24 cent tax on every can of soda sold. The tax was estimated to bring in a revenue of about $31 million per year.[1]

The proceeds of the Proposition E tax would have been earmarked for "nutrition, physical activity, and health programs in public schools, parks, and elsewhere."[2]

With millions of dollars spent by the beverage industry in opposition, similar tax measures were defeated in 2012 in Richmond and the town of El Monte.[3]

A two-thirds supermajority vote was required for approval of this measure.

Election results

City of San Francisco, Proposition E
Defeatedd No98,62544.41%
Yes 123,475 55.59%

While Proposition E gathered more "yes" votes than "no" votes, the measure required a 2/3rds majority to pass.

Election results via: San Francisco General Election Report

Text of measure

Ballot simplification

The Ballot Simplification Committee provided the following statement explaining Proposition E:[4]


The City does not impose a tax on the distribution of sugar-sweetened beverages. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to serious health problems.


Proposition E would place a tax of 2 cents per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages to fund health, nutrition, physical education and active recreation programs.

A sugar-sweetened beverage is a beverage that contains added sugar and 25 or more calories per 12 ounces, including some soft drinks, sports drinks, iced tea, juice drinks and energy drinks. The tax would also apply to syrups and powders that can be made into sugar-sweetened beverages in a beverage-dispensing machine, such as fountain drinks.

The distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages in San Francisco would be responsible for paying the tax.

Some beverages would not be subject to the tax, even if they contain added sugar. These include:

  • Diet sodas;
  • Milk, soy milk, rice milk and almond milk;
  • Beverages that contain only natural fruit and vegetable juice;
  • Infant formula;
  • Meal replacements, supplemental nutrition products and weight reduction beverages; and
  • Syrups and powders sold for mixing by individuals to make sugar-sweetened beverages.

The San Francisco Unified School District, Department of Public Health, and Recreation and Park Department must use the proceeds of this tax to fund health, nutrition, physical education and active recreation programs. The funds must be used only for new or expanded programs. Up to 2 percent of the tax proceeds could be used to administer the funds.

A 15-member Healthy Nutrition and Physical Activity Access Fund Committee would advise the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors and City departments about how to spend the funds.

Because the proceeds from the tax are dedicated to specific purposes, approval of this measure requires two-thirds of the votes cast.

A “YES” VOTE MEANS: If you vote "yes," you want the City to collect a tax of 2 cents per ounce from the distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages to fund health, nutrition, physical education and active recreation programs.

A “NO” VOTE MEANS: If you vote “no,” you do not want the City to collect this tax.[5]

—San Francisco Ballot Simplification Committee[4]

Full text

The full text of the ordinance that would have been enacted by the approval of Proposition E is available here.



Supervisor Scott Wiener

Supervisors Scott Wiener, Eric Mar, Malia Cohen, David Chiu, John Avalos and David Campos were the sponsors of this measure.

Arguments in favor

According to Wiener, "We are experiencing an epidemic of health problems directly attributable to sugary beverages – including spikes in diabetes and obesity afflicting adults, teenagers, and even young children. Teenagers, particularly in low income communities, are now being diagnosed with pre-diabetes or full-blown diabetes. These cases of diabetes are attributable to significant consumption of sugary beverages. A recent California survey found that sugary beverage consumption by teenagers is increasing above its already-high level."[2]



The Libertarian Party of San Francisco was the official ballot opponent. The Coalition for an Affordable City, a group formed to oppose the measure, and Californians for Food & Beverage Choice, an organization formed and supported by the American Beverage Association, also actively opposed the measure. Californians for Food & Beverage Choice also opposed the beverage tax in Berkeley.[6]

Arguments against

The Libertarian Party's ballot argument against this measure said, "High cigarette taxes have resulted in smuggling, tax evasion, and violence, and jacking up soda taxes will likewise have adverse consequences that legislators cannot anticipate."[6]

LPSF outreach director Starchild said, "Your body belongs to you, not to the State, What you put into it should be your choice."[6]

Roger Salzar, spokesman for the CFBC, said, "Our view basically is that beverage taxes aren’t the solution for changing behaviors or teaching people about healthy lifestyles. A regressive tax on common grocery items like sugar-sweetened beverages in Berkeley won’t make people any healthier, but it does have an impact on businesses and consumers who are already struggling to make ends meet."[6]

Path to the ballot

According to a fact sheet on the proposed soda tax found on Scott Wiener's website, Wiener collaborated with Supervisors Eric Mar, Malia Cohen and John Avalos to unify proposals and get the tax on the ballot. The San Francisco City Council voted during one of its February meetings to put the measure on the ballot.[2][6]

Similar measures

Approveda City of Berkeley Sugary Beverages and Soda Tax Question, Measure D (November 2014)
Defeatedd City of Richmond Tax on Soda, Measure N (November 2012)
Defeatedd City of El Monte Soda Tax, Measure H (November 2012)

External links

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Additional reading