UNDATED (CBS) - This morning, another battle is bubbling in the soda wars. A city in northern California is asking votes if they want to put a tax on sugary beverages. This would go way beyond the soda fountain.
Every child on average drinks 40 pounds of sugar each year in sodas and other drinks according to Dr. Jeff Ritterman. He says, "These are not innocuous drinks, these are bad for you, this is a bigger killer right now than cigarettes in our country."
The cardiologist and city councilman from Richmond California is behind a ballot measure which levies a penny-an-ounce tax on any beverage with added calorie-boosting sweeteners. It's the first of its kind in the nation because it taxes the vendor who sells the drink, not the individual consumer.
It's led to an all-out soda war with opposing campaigns raising a total of almost $400,000. But it's not just a soda-battle. The measure would raise taxes on everything from chocolate milk, to nutrition shakes, to sweetened teas, and certain baby formulas. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says, "Obesity is killing 5,000 people a year in New York City."
New York's proposal to ban oversize sugary beverages is just one of 63 attempts by state and local governments to discourage cola consumption as a way to fight obesity. California has already eliminated sodas from its public schools. The city of El Monte in southern California is following Richmond's lead with a similar tax initiative of its own. But Richmond's approach is different.
Chuck Finnie with the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes says, "They're not imposing a tax on the product, they're imposing a business license tax, that is raising the price of doing business in Richmond, and that cost increase is going to get passed along on all products."
Ritterman says, "We're gonna take in about $3 million, that's the best estimate. For $86,000 we can teach every third grader in Richmond how to swim."
Finnie says, "The money raised from it, not one thin dime of that revenue is specifically for anti-obesity programs in Richmond."
Those in favor of the measure might need to fatten their coffers if they hope to win in November. So far, opposition groups are outspending them by almost 10 to 1.