The San Francisco Bay Area city of Berkeley could become the first US city to tax sugary drinks.

The city’s Council voted last week to put a measure on the ballot to impose a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks. Diet sodas would be exempted.

San Francisco is also pursuing a soda tax ballot measure.

“In November, Berkeley will be the first in the country where such a measure has been passed,” said Vicki Alexander, a leader of a campaign behind the measure.

“We are very excited to see that day happen.”

Public health advocates have clamoured for ways to reduce consumption of sugary drinks and junk food, but legislators and voters have generally opposed enacting taxes or other regulations.

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to limit sales of large sugary drinks was rejected on June 26 by the state’s highest court. A California bill to require sugary soft drinks to carry health warnings died in the California Legislature on June 17.

Revenues from Berkeley’s tax, if it passes, would go toward the city’s general fund.

“It’s disingenuous because there’s nothing in this measure that’s going to education. This goes right into the general account. It’s a money grab,” said Ted Mundorff, the boss of Landmark Theatres, which has cinemas in Berkeley.

A local vending machine executive said her firm would be forced to pass the tax on to consumers to stay in business. – Daily Mail