Five years ago, Mayor Michael A. Nutter proposed a tax on soda in Philadelphia, and the industry rose up to beat it back.
Soda lobbyists made campaign contributions to local politicians and staged rallies, with help from allies like the Teamsters union and local bottling companies. To burnish its image, the industry donated $10 million to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
It worked: The soda tax proposal never got out of a City Council committee.
It’s a familiar story. Soda taxes have also flopped in New York State and San Francisco. So far, only superliberal Berkeley, Calif., has succeeded in adopting such a measure over industry objections.
The obvious lesson from Philadelphia is that the soda industry is winning the policy battles over the future of its product. But the bigger picture is that soda companies are losing the war.