Pepsi, Coke said to become a secret force behind ballot initiatives that push back on sugar taxes

Health, Fitness & Food

To bottle up the movement to tax sugary drinks, major beverage companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are spending millions of dollars on commercials that push people to vote to prohibit local governments from slapping levies on certain foods and drinks, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

report, voters in Washington and Oregon have been inundated with advertisements from groups like Yes! To Affordable Groceries, which have already spent more than $25 million on the campaign. These advocacy organizations are largely financed by the big beverage companies, the report noted, who are fighting anti-obesity efforts pushed by state and local governments.

Pepsi and Coca-Cola did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Health advocates hope the tax on sugar-packed drinks will reduce consumption of them. They point to the fact that nearly 40 percent of Americans are obese, according to the Center for Disease Control. However, the beverage giants are pushing back by funding ballot measures and legislation that would block municipalities from imposing taxes on key goods and services, The Times noted.

More than 30 countries already tax sugary beverages. Municipalities across the U.S. are now considering doing the same, and sweet drinks are already pricier in seven cities, including Philadelphia, San Francisco and Boulder, Colo.

That beverage companies dislike the tax initiatives is perhaps unsurprising. A public health study found soda taxes in Berkeley, Calif. resulted in a more than 20 percent drop in soda consumption.

The full report can be found on The Times’ website.

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