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In a Devastating Blow to the Beverage Industry, 4 Cities Passed Soda Taxes

In a major blow to the beverage industry, all four cities that voted on soda taxes yesterday passed them in landslide victories.

San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany, California, voted in ballot measures that would levy a penny-per-ounce tax on distributors of sugary drinks. The people of Boulder, Colorado, also said yes to a 2-cent-per-ounce excise tax on distributors.

"This is an astonishing repudiation of big soda. For too long, the big soda companies got away with putting profits over their customers’ health," said Jim Krieger, the executive director of Healthy Food America. "That changed tonight."

In San Francisco and Oakland, the soda tax measures passed with 62 percent support. In Albany, it passed with 71 percent, and in Boulder, with 55 percent.

The stakes this year were high, for the beverage industry and for the philanthropists like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who invested millions in campaigns in favor of the taxes. The soda industry, which has seen slumping sales in recent years, has been terrified that more communities would follow the two cities that already have taxes on sugary beverages (Berkeley and Philadelphia) and approve levies of their own. The public health community, meanwhile, was desperate to build on the soda-tax momentum.

In the lead-up to the vote, spending on lobbying for both the pro- and anti-tax sides shot up astronomically in 2016 for what some have called the "most expensive city-level ballot initiative in US history."