Suffredin- For a Better Cook County  

Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine


  Office phone numbers:  

Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.


The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.

  Last year more people used the County's forest preserves than visited Yellowstone National Park.

In Berkeley, Soda Tax Is Doing What It's Supposed To Do

Wednesday, October 04, 2017
by Bruce Y. Lee

When Berkeley, California, in November 2014, became the first city in the United States to pass a sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax (and San Francisco did not), some soda tax advocates were worried. After all, Berkeley was not the ideal location for a "great soda tax experiment." With many eyes on this experiment, an unsuccessful experiment had the potential of being a high-profile setback. However, a study just published in PLOS Medicine lends further evidence that the SSB tax is doing what it is supposed to do.

What exactly is the one-cent-per-ounce tax, implemented in March 2015, supposed to do? Adding a tax to SSBs makes buying them a bit more expensive, which may tilt a thirsty individual towards drinking water instead, especially if the individual is short on cash. While soda and other SSBs are not the only causes of the ongoing childhood obesity epidemic, drinking beverages high in added sugar and calories certainly isn't helping. In addition to changing behavior, a SSB tax could provide additional revenue to the city. The soda industry fought the SSB tax in Berkeley and San Francisco, claiming that the tax is intrusive and will disproportionately affect lower-income people. Thus, in 2014, the push for an SSB tax succeeded in Berkeley but failed in San Francisco.

At the time, the San Francisco defeat disheartened many SSB tax advocates. With its size, diverse population and standing as a prominent city, San Francisco would have been a major victory. By comparison, Berkeley is relatively small (certainly compared to San Francisco), 17 square miles in area and just over 116,000 in population, meaning that residents could readily travel to adjoining towns that didn't have a soda tax to buy soda. Also, compared to San Francisco, Berkeley has a much smaller lower-income population and potentially fewer people who use cost as a deciding factor of whether to drink soda.

Soda tax advocates worried that the size of Berkeley would inhibit the tax's effectiveness (Photo: Shutterstock)

In just a couple of years since the San Francisco defeat, my, have times changed. Six locations have since passed SSB taxes, including San Francisco. A study published last fall in the American Journal of Public Health showed that SSB consumption decreased by 21% and water consumption increased by more than 63% in Berkeley after the SSB tax. And now for the PLOS Medicine study, researchers from the Public Health Institute (Lynn D. Silver, Suzanne Ryan-Ibarra and Marta Induni) and the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina (Shu Wen Ng, Lindsey Smith Taillie, Donna R. Miles, Jennifer M. Poti and Barry M. Popkin) found that one year after the SSB tax was introduced, SSB sales fell in Berkeley by 9.6% and rose in surrounding areas by 6.9%. Meanwhile, sales of water in Berkeley jumped by 15.6%.

Does this mean that the same effects will be seen elsewhere? Potentially. The American Beverage Association claimed in a statement that "Berkeley’s relatively small size, high median income and low baseline consumption rates make it a challenging place to determine the true impact of a beverage tax–unlike Philadelphia, where the tax has led to significant job losses and economic hardship for working families. This study does, however, confirm that sales of taxed beverages inside the city declined while sales of those same beverages outside the city increased, which is also what is happening in Philadelphia." On the other hand, with Berkeley being less than ideal for such an experiment, effects could be greater elsewhere.

Again, SSB taxes are not the cure-all for childhood obesity. There are numerous other causes of the childhood obesity epidemic, such as the food that kids are eating, their lack of physical activity and other systems around them. As Louise Codling, head of policy and public affairs at World Cancer Research Fund, stated: “It is encouraging to see that the tax in Berkeley effectively reduced purchases of sugary drinks. We hope that this encourages similar taxes to be introduced in more places around the world, however this is just one part of the multi-faceted approach needed to tackle the obesity epidemic." Moreover, will the SSB tax effects persist over time or will people get used to the higher prices?

Follow me on Twitter @bruce_y_lee and visit our Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Read my other Forbes pieces here.

Recent Headlines

Preteens out of detention before trial under new ordinance
Friday, September 14, 2018
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Cook County Board bars detention of youth under 13 years old
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Injustice Watch

Preteens accused of crimes won't be locked up at Cook County juvenile center
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Slowik: Cook County offers residents last chance to comment on strategic plan
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Daily Southtown

Settlement over Cook County's 2007 decision to cut inmates' dental care will cost nearly $5.3 million
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Anti-patronage Shakman pact requiring federal oversight of Cook County hiring, firing to end
Friday, August 31, 2018
Chicago Tribune

1st District upholds merit board in firing of deputy
Thursday, August 30, 2018
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Neighborhood program helps Cook County residents buy homes
Sunday, August 26, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Judge upholds Cook County firearm, ammunition taxes
Thursday, August 23, 2018
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Editorial: E-filing should make Cook County courts more accessible. It doesn't
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Cook County tax incentive could pave way for Wingstop, Dunkin' Donuts on Elgin's Summit Street
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Editorial: What happened to the elk?
Friday, August 10, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Wells Fargo to offer $15,000 grants to potential Cook County homebuyers
Thursday, August 09, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Suit alleges Cook County detainees secretly monitored in bathrooms in holding cells at courthouses
Wednesday, August 08, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Half the elk at Busse Woods died last year, and officials aren’t sure why
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Chicago Tribune

A letter from Dr. Jay Shannon regarding gun violence and Stroger Hospital
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Special to

As Evanston adapts to minimum wage hike, nearby towns say they have no plan to join in
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Lawsuit could blast a $250 million hole in county budget
Monday, August 06, 2018
Crain's Chicago Business

Pappas: Automatic refunds of $19.5 million going to 53,000 homeowners because of property tax cuts
Monday, August 06, 2018
Special to

Thousands of Cook County homeowners to receive property tax refunds
Monday, August 06, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.