Big Soda and Big Cities: Will PR Firms Decide The Fate of Sugary Beverage Taxes?

american_soda_wellness_warrior.jpgAmidst the reports of the newest Pepsico “innovation” to join the lineup at 7-11 checkout counters, and reports of disproportionate junk-food ads during kids programming, it’s nice to know that there are people out there who won’t give up the fight for our health. The road to legislation against sugary beverages has been a long and rocky one, most recently ending in a small defeat, but the battle rages on. The LA Times reported last week that Berkeley will join San Francisco with a sugary drink tax bill on the ballot this coming November! This week, the Associated Press speculates on just how tough a battle each of these bills will face:

The stakes are high, especially given the Bay Area’s reputation for liberal politics. If approved, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and other companies fear it could galvanize health advocates elsewhere. If defeated, the idea of a soda tax could be dead."

WIth soda sales on the decline for the past 10 years in the U.S., it’s no wonder that Big Soda, represented by the American Beverage Association (ABA), is going to put up a fight. Ultimately, observers feel it will come down to campaigning and public relations jargon to sway public opinion. The ABA has its tactics down, one of which is creating groups like the “Coalition for an Affordable City” and “Citizens Against Beverage Taxes,” which are far from the grassroots organized efforts that the ABA would have citizens think they are. A silver-tongued ABA spokesperson would have you believe otherwise:  

The coalition was created by a public affairs firm hired by the American Beverage Association. It bears close resemblance to groups the industry’s lobbying association has set up to fight soda measures in other cities. Gindlesperger, the spokesman for the ABA, said the name isn’t intended to mislead people about the group’s origin."

It’s not surprising that the ABA would fight so hard to continue making profits—any business would. It’s just unfortunate and appalling that they are also simultaneously fighting to sell an addictive and health-risk-causing product.  If you want to show your support for these bills and help fight the ABA, then head over to Berkeley v. Big Soda to see what you can do, and stay tuned!

PHOTO: via Alexander Kaiser, pooliestudios.com

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