The El Monte City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to put a measure on the city ballot that will ask voters to impose a one cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks sold within the city. It’s estimated the measure could bring in $3.5-7 million in revenue. The city expects this move will also benefit the community from a health and wellness standpoint by creating discussion about the negative impacts sugary drinks have on residents’ health.
“We’re looking at addressing two issues here,” said El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero. “Our residents are disproportionately feeling the impacts of drinking soda and juices that are causing them to have heart attacks, strokes and contract Type2 Diabetes. This is a significant issue for our community and we need to start driving that discussion. At the same time, the lagging economy is creating a budget deficit that could negatively impact, among other things, our recreation programs, which contribute to a healthy community. By asking residents to approve this measure, our community will be moving in a positive direction toward reducing obesity and improving our health.”
A report by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) found that 50.2% of El Monte’s children have been classified as overweight or obese. The city ranks ninth highest in childhood obesity in the state, where the average is 38%.
“Sugary drinks are the leading contributors to the obesity epidemic,” said Harold Goldstein, DrPH, Executive Director of the CCPHA. “One 20-ounce soda is equal to 16 teaspoons of sugar. That’s like drinking 22 packets of sugar in one glass. Studies suggest that as much as half of the obesity epidemic has come from consuming sugary drinks – and that is having a devastating impact on the health of our communities.”
Like other California cities, El Monte has faced numerous fiscal challenges this year, including the elimination of its redevelopment agency and a reduction in state and federal funding. To address this, the city has streamlined staff size, employees have made salary concessions, the City Council reduced its benefits by 15%, and the city is now talking about further reducing all city departments by 6.5%.