First City in the United States: Berkeley's Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

“This Ordinance shall be effective on January 1, 2015.
The last effective date of this Ordinance shall be December 31, 2026, and it shall terminate as of January 1, 2027.”
— Section 4 of Ord. 7388-NS, City of Berkeley

Berkeley's Ordinance

The purpose of this Ordinance is to diminish the human and economic costs of diseases associated with the consumption of sugary drinks by discouraging their distribution and consumption in Berkeley through a tax. Specifically, the purpose of this ordinance is to levy an Excise Tax of one cent ($0.01) per fluid ounce on the distribution of sugar-sweetened beverage products in the City. Click here for a complete copy of the Ordinance.  

Has a tax like this passed before?

In November 2014, Berkeley became the first municipality in the United States to pass a tax on the distribution of sugar-sweetened beverages. Since then, the City of Berkeley's lessons and challenges on the implementation of the tax, are well documented and shared with a growing list of other municipalities in the country interested in Berkeley's experience. 

What is Taxed?

This Ordinance imposes a general tax on the distribution of sugar-sweetened beverages such as high-calorie, low-nutrition products, like soda, energy drinks, and heavily pre-sweetened tea, as well as the added caloric sweeteners used to produce these sugar-sweetened beverages, such as the pre-made syrup used to make fountain drinks. Certain drinks containing sugar are exempted, including infant formula, milk products, and natural fruit and vegetable juice. 

For more detail on how to determine if a beverage is taxable, read #10 of Frequently Asked Questions. 

African American in her 60s lived 40 years in Berkeley.
She voted for Berkeley’s soda tax after some hesitation.
She went to the doctor. and was told she has pre-diabetes. She was referred to the 16 week Diabetes Prevention Program at the YMCA.
She went and learned how to eat differently
She asked: “How much does it cost?”
The YMCA said “Nothing”
She asked “Why?”
“Because the City (of Berkeley) is paying with the soda tax money (through the City’s General Fund)”
She went back to the doctor.
Her blood sugar had gone down
And it is still down.
— Success Story: An Uber Driver's Story

City Council's Funding Allocations

Since 2015, the Berkeley City Council has allocated a total of $5 million from the General Funds for community agency grants and Public Health Division staffing to support the Healthy Berkeley Program. The funded programs aim to reduce consumption of all sugar-sweetened beverages. For a list of funded programs, read more...