Assemblymember Nazarian Moves to Stop Soda Industry's "Extortion" of California Lawmakers and Bring New Revenue and Health Equity to California Cities

For immediate release:
Assemblymember Nazarian is proud to have the support of American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership, California Black Health Network, California Dental Association, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, The Praxis Project, Public Health Advocates, Public Health Institute, Roots of Change and Social Justice Learning Institute.

(Sacramento, CA) Today, Assemblymember Nazarian (D-Van Nuys) introduced legislation to eliminate the statewide preemption on local sugary drink taxes, a measure forced upon the legislature by the soda industry in 2018 that was described by the Sacramento Bee as a "shakedown" akin to “extortion”. As California counties and cities are considering all options to close their unprecedented budgetary shortfalls, Assemblymember Nazarian believes the legislature should give municipalities access to every revenue-generating option, especially one that simultaneously improves public health outcomes.

“Our cities have their hands tied behind their back by sugary special interests who place profits over people during a public health crisis,” stated a fiery Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. “A tax on sugary drinks has been proven to decrease diabetes rates and improve health equity while providing our cities additional revenue to help our COVID-19 response.”

Removing the preemption is not a tax, rather it would provide governments another tool in their toolbox to address health equity and fund critical services.   Four cities enacted a local sugary drink tax before the preemption.

As COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities in California, research shows that communities of color also have a disproportionately higher risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes in their lifetimes, in part due to the overconsumption of cheap sugary drinks flooding into their communities. Diabetes is a risk factor for severe COVID and the LAO has also highlighted the health proposition behind a sugary drink tax “of potentially leading to improvements in health—such as reduced rates of heart disease and diabetes.

“The proliferation and targeted promotion of sugar-sweetened beverages to marginalized communities makes it a racial and health equity issue,” said Rod Lew, MPH, Executive Director of Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL), “And in this era of renewed attention on racial justice, we must support proven policy initiatives that puts the health of our communities first. One of the first steps is to remove State preemption banning local taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Six cities including Los Angeles and 3 counties including Contra Costa have already either passed a resolution or written a letter in support of lifting preemption, and dozens of additional cities and counties are currently reaching out with interest. Currently, the City of Berkeley’s soda tax is raising $1.5 million annually for its residents, Oakland around $7 million, and San Francisco $15 million. Revenues have been directed towards schools and nutrition programs, both of which have served as critical resources for families during the pandemic.

 “California voters who passed sugary drink taxes have given their cities millions of dollars in revenue to address critical health and funding needs. The American Heart Association is proud to support Assemblymember Nazarian’s bill to restore power to local municipalities to improve the health of their residents and their local economies during these unprecedented times,” said Kathy Rogers, Executive Vice President of the American Heart Association Western States Region.

Assemblymember Nazarian added: “Special interests should not be dictating policy to our cities. This bill gives power back to the people.” 

Assemblymember Nazarian is proud to have the support of American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership, California Black Health Network, California Dental Association, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, The Praxis Project, Public Health Advocates, Public Health Institute, Roots of Change and Social Justice Learning Institute.

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Adrin Nazarian represents the 46th Assembly District, serving the San Fernando Valley communities of Hollywood Hills, Lake Balboa, North Hills, North Hollywood, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Universal City, Van Nuys, and Valley Village
 

“Local governments interact with their constituents daily and are uniquely positioned to meet the needs of people in their communities. Their ability to solve local problems and go beyond state laws to make healthier living easier for all who reside, work and play in their community should prevail over special interests.” – Autumn Ogden-Smith, Director of California State Legislation, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network 

“California voters who passed sugary drink taxes have given their cities millions of dollars in revenue to address critical health and funding needs. The American Heart Association is proud to support Assemblymember Nazarian’s bill to restore power to local municipalities to improve the health of their residents and their local economies during these unprecedented times.” – Kathy Rogers, Executive Vice President, American Heart Association Western States Region.

The proliferation and targeted promotion of sugar-sweetened beverages to marginalized communities makes it a racial and health equity issue.  And in this era of renewed attention on racial justice, we must support proven policy initiatives that puts the health of our communities first. One of the first steps is to remove State preemption banning local taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages. – Rod Lew, MPH, Executive Director, Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL)

“The coronavirus pandemic has shined a bright light on the inequities that exist in our communities. Now is the time to prioritize health equity and promote effective public health strategies to address health disparities. The State preemption banning local taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages is a barrier to equity and must be removed.” – Eugene Canson, Health Policy Consultant, California Black Health Network

“As health care providers, dentists see the devastating effects of sugar-sweetened beverages on teeth every day in our practices. Communities need the flexibility to protect residents, especially children, from tooth decay, which is the number one chronic childhood disease, affecting their ability to chew, speak properly and learn in school.” – Dr. Judee Tippett-Whyte, President, California Dental Association

"California’s Latinx community has been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic which has exacerbated existing social and economic disparities. Lifting preemption will give cities and counties the opportunity to raise local revenues to fund community-driven solutions to address the short and long-term effects of the pandemic. The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California strongly supports legislation that lifts preemption so we can fund innovative programs to meet the evolving health and social needs of our community and achieve health equity for all Californians." - Dr. Jeffrey Reynoso, Executive Director, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California

“In 2018, the Beverage Industry took a page from the ALEC playbook and engaged in a shakedown of California's legislative process by forcing a 12- year preemption of local soda taxes. The soda taxes raised in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and Albany have given the local governments more flexibility to directly fund community efforts to address impacts from COVID-19.  It's time to repeal soda tax preemption so that other California can be freed to raise funds to help their communities most impacted by COVID-19.” – Xavier Morales, Ph.D., Executive Director, The Praxis Project

"It is our duty to lift the concerns of our most vulnerable communities. To find the best ways to bring resources that support healing practices for those disproportionately affected by social determinants of health. Lifting this preemption will shift power dynamics and help to provide lifesaving services for all Californians. Public Health Advocates supports this legislation." – DeAngelo Mack, Director of State Policy, Public Health Advocates

“In 2018, Big Soda stole the ability of California communities to decide for themselves how to stay healthy. Amidst the devastating impacts of COVID, this legislation will untie the hands of communities: giving them back power, choice and another tool to restore health and equity, and rebuild economies.” – Matthew Marsom, Senior Vice President, Public Health Institute

"Whether due to Covid illness, loss of jobs, lack of access to healthy food or affordable housing or the impacts of natural disaster, I have never seen Californians suffer more egregiously. Our communities large and small need options for raising revenue to address the multitude of complex challenges. Taxing harmful beverages that increase suffering and financial costs to us all makes economic and public health sense. We call on the Legislature to make it possible once again.” – Michael Dimock, President, Roots of Change