A Blow to Big Soda in Cook County

At Real Food Media, we’re doing a happy dance today.

The sugary drinks tax approved by Cook County—home to one of the nation’s largest cities, Chicago—can move forward, despite Big Soda attempts to block implementation in the courts.

As our colleagues at Healthy Food America said in the wake of the ruling, “We are pleased that Cook County is a step closer to making a real difference in the health of its residents.”

Starting with Mexico’s 2013 approval of a sugary drinks tax and the city of Berkeley’s win in 2014, these taxes are catching on: Cook County joins Philadelphia, Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, and Albany, California. And the research on tax implementation is showing they work, reducing consumption of sugary drinks and upping consumption of water, while generating much needed revenue.

In 2016, the World Health Organization came out in favor of these taxes, stating: “If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives. They can also cut healthcare costs and increase revenues to invest in health services.” Why? Because drinking soda and other sugary beverages is a “major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes,” explained Dr. Douglas Bettcher of the WHO.

I don’t know about you, but I like the sound of saving lives. You know who doesn’t seem to? Big Soda. Want to know how worried the industry is about these taxes? Check out this leaked document with Coca-Cola Europe’s internal strategy mapping of the policies most threatening to the bottom line.

The industry is fighting back against these taxes, the attempt to block the tax in Cook County is just one example. I saw Big Soda’s bullying tactics up-close-and-personal when my small city of Berkeley, California, launched a campaign for a tax on sugary drinks. The industry was relentless in its misinformation, but despite outspending the community efforts, the industry lost in a landslide.

Today, more than $1 million is being generated from tax revenue each year to support public health and nutrition education efforts across the city, benefiting our most vulnerable neighbors.

Hopefully today’s victory in Cook County will inspire even more communities to explore this powerful tool to help address the epidemic of diet-related illnesses sweeping the country and the world.

Cheers to the over 5 million residents in Chicago and Cook County who will benefit from this win. *clinks glass of non-sugary sweetened beverage*

Anna and the Real Food Media team