'Big Soda' Pleased By Demise of San Francisco Soda Fee

Cheers, Gavin...
"Big Soda" is celebrating a bit today. How about a Fresca?

With Mayor Gavin Newsom announcing the curtailing of his plan to impose a fee on the sales of soda within city limits to fund anti-obesity efforts, the folks who sell said sodas are satiated. "We're very happy with his change of heart," said Bob Achermann, the executive director of the California Nevada Soft Drink Association. "In terms of direction, I don't know where he's going."

Well, if Newsom goes to Sacramento, then he'll be Achermann's neighbor. But the soda thing? Well, the mayor is unpredictable.

That being said, Newsom abandoning his somewhat nebulous fee wasn't the biggest surprise. When it comes down to it, the plan was eerily similar to the proposed alcohol fee he just vetoed with gusto: Charge everyone who buys soda/booze to fund the most extreme sufferers of overuse of said product.

That breakdown could have led both of these fees to lose in court when industry groups sued: Fees imposed upon city consumers must essentially benefit those shelling out for services. Drinking too much Jolt may make you fat and jittery -- but the vast majority of us will not be hospitalized for obesity-related problems. Similarly, the alcohol fee would have supported detox centers for the city's most hard-up drunks. A noble goal -- but not one most of the folks footing the bill would have benefited from.

Achermann noted that he and his colleagues had "conversations with the mayor's office over our dissatisfaction with his suggestion. Obviously, we talked about different approaches" (Achermann favors more labeling on sodas and selling a wider array of low- and no-sugar drinks).  Was litigation brought up? No. But, then again, why bring up something so obvious?

Soda-loving San Franciscans aren't entirely vindicated, however. Newsom's April executive order banning soda from machines on city property is still intact. That being said, it won't take effect until contracts with the companies running the machine run out and are renegotiated.

Drink 'em if you got 'em.

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