How much is the soda industry spending to defeat public health?
Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Mike Newall says the beverage industry is spending a lot of money (“flowing like a Big Gulp”) to defeat the City Council’s soda tax initiative—$2.6 million so far (but see footnote below).
Here’s the catch – this time around, the beverage barons only have to win over City Council. There are 17 Council members, so that comes out to about $152,000 in ad dollars each.
Philadelphia is a battleground Big Soda cannot afford to lose.
The soda industry spent more than $10 million to fight soda tax measures in San Francisco (the industry succeeded) and in Berkeley (the industry lost—76% of voters were for the tax).
But what I really want to know is how much the soda industry spent to defeat Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to cap the sizes of sugary beverages at 16 ounces. I live in New York City and here’s what I saw the industry do or heard about (much of this is documented in my book, Soda Politics, and in former NYC Health Commissioner Tom Farley’s Saving Gotham; Farley is now health commissioner in Philadelphia):
- Three full-page ads in the New York Times
- Signs on Coke and Pepsi delivery trucks
- A personal mailing to my home
- Tee shirts: “I picked out my beverage all by myself”
- People collecting signatures on petitions against the proposal (they said they were paid $30/hour)
- Airplane banners
- Movie trailers
- Video ads
- Meetings with city officials
- Legal challenges—briefs, court appearances
This was not an election so the soda industry did not have to disclose how much it spent. But I sure would like to know.
Footnote: Jim O’Hara of Center for Science in the Public Interest reminds me that he wrote a report last year about the amount of money spent by the soda industry to fight public health measures. You can find it here. By his count, the industry spent ~$15 million just in New York between 2010 and 2015, but I’m guessing this doesn’t count the soda cap legal fees.