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The American Heart Association, Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition and Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition have filed a lawsuit to appeal and amend the ballot title and summary of an initiative that would ban Washington's local governments from levying new taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). In re Ballot Title & Summary for Initiative No. 1634, No. 18-2-01924-34 (Wash. Super. Ct., filed April 9, 2018). The petition alleges that after Seattle's SSB tax took effect January 1, 2018, beverage industry groups filed the initiative in an attempt to stop other jurisdictions from adopting similar taxes. The petition also alleges that the ballot title and summary are “misleading and prejudicial” because they purport to ban new taxes on "groceries," a measure that the advocacy groups predict would be “disfavored” by voters.

The Ninth Circuit has granted an en banc rehearing of its September 2017 decision to block a San Francisco ordinance requiring health warnings on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) on the grounds that it unduly burdened and chilled speech protected by the First Amendment. Am. Beverage Ass’n. v. City & Cty. of San Francisco, No. 16-16072 (9th Cir., entered January 29, 2018). The September ruling overturned a 2016 district court decision determining that the city’s interest in public health and safety was a reasonable basis to enforce the ordinance, which required black-box warning labels on all advertising for SSBs that could take up as much as 20 percent of the advertising space. In addition, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to Philadelphia’s SSB tax that claims the 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax violates state law; the challengers allege that because the tax is levied on distributors and ultimately borne by…

A state senator in Pennsylvania has reportedly announced plans to introduce a bill that would bar any municipality in the state from levying a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). If enacted, the bill could invalidate the 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax that took effect in Philadelphia in January 2017 after a failed challenge in court. Although Rep. Mark Mustio (R-Allegheny) represents part of the Pittsburgh area, he has been critical of the effect of the tax on Philadelphia retailers, claiming that grocery stores have experienced as much as a 20 percent drop in revenues as consumers crossed over to suburban counties to buy SSBs and other items.

University of Sydney researchers have apparently found an association between adolescents’ consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and oral health or obesity. Louise Hardy, et al., “Association between adolescents’ consumption of total and different types of sugar-sweetened beverages with oral health impacts and weight status,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, November 22, 2017. The authors noted a higher association between dental disease and “new generation” SSBs—diet soft drinks, sports drinks and flavored water—than the association found with other SSBs. The study reported that while daily consumption of SSBs is prevalent among adolescents—90 percent reported drinking at least one cup per day—SSB intake was “more consistently associated” with oral health problems than extra weight or obesity. More than 3,500 youths aged 10-16 participated in the study, which surveyed SSB intake, height and weight measurements, physical activity, dental health and demographic information. Although the study reported that clinical dental examinations…

The Scottish Government is seeking public comment on a consultation that proposes actions to improve diet and reduce obesity in Scotland. The government previously announced funding of more than $55 million over five years to limit the marketing of food high in fat, sugar and salt and provide weight-loss support for people with type 2 diabetes. The consultation, which is open through January 31, 2018, asks questions about promotions and marketing, “out of home” or restaurant eating, labeling, product reformulation and taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages or similar products. Scotland is also considering proposals to limit “junk food” advertising and provide support for small and mid-sized food manufacturers to reformulate and develop healthier products.

Chicago officials have voted to repeal a sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax approved in November 2016 by the Cook County Board of Commissioners but delayed by a lawsuit arguing that the tax was unconstitutional. The tax took effect in August 2017 after a court dismissed the Illinois Retail Merchants Association's lawsuit. Retailers reportedly saw SSB sales decline 25 to 50 percent, while retailers with locations in surrounding counties not subject to the tax saw sales increase. In addition, the Chicago Tribune reported, "Internal polling for one Cook County commissioner showed more than 90 percent of constituents opposed the soda tax.” The repeal will take effect December 1, 2017. Other jurisdictions continue to experiment with SSB taxes. In April 2018, Ireland will begin taxing non-alcoholic, water- and juice-based drinks with an added sugar content of 5 grams or more per 100 milliliters. Pure fruit juices and dairy products will be exempt from the…

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court's denial of a preliminary injunction stopping the warning-label portion of San Francisco's sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax from taking effect. Am. Beverage Ass'n v. City & Cty. of San Francisco, No. 16-16072 (9th Cir., entered September 19, 2017). Additional information about the complaint and denial appears in Issues 573 and 605 of this Update, and details on the enforcement delay and associated amicus briefs appear in Issues 592, 607 and 613. San Francisco's warning-label ordinance would require a warning about the health effects of SSBs—specifically, "Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay"—to occupy 20 percent of the visible portions of fixed SSB advertising, including billboards, structures and vehicles. After several industry associations challenged the requirement, the district court held that the warning was not misleading, would not place an undue burden on the plaintiffs' commercial…

According to a warning letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax that took effect in the Chicago metropolitan area on August 2, 2017, violates the federal Food and Nutrition Act, putting Illinois at risk of losing its food-stamp funds. Some retailers could not update point-of-sale systems to exempt SSB purchases made with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds before the tax went into effect, so Cook County Department of Revenue officials told retailers they could refund the taxes at a customer service desk or other location on the premises. However, USDA told the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) in an August 7 letter that retailers cannot charge tax to SNAP recipients at any time and that providing an immediate refund does not cure the violation of federal law. USDA also stated that it notified Cook County officials that the workaround was “unacceptable” as…

A sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax will go into effect in Chicago and surrounding suburbs following a Cook County court's dissolution of a temporary restraining order and dismissal of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association's lawsuit alleging the tax violated the state’s constitution. Illinois Retail Merchs. Ass’n v. Cook Cty. Dep’t of Revenue, No. 2017L050596 (Ill. Cir. Ct., Cook Cty., order entered June 28, 2017). The 1-cent-per-ounce tax was scheduled to take effect July 1, 2017, but its implementation was postponed by the restraining order, which was upheld by the state appeals court. More details about the tax appear in Issues 622 and 640 of this Update. See Chicago Tribune, July 28, 2017.   Issue 642

The Illinois Appellate Court has upheld a temporary restraining order that stopped a proposed one-cent per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) from going into effect in Cook County on July 1, 2017. Illinois Retail Merchs. Ass’n v. Cook Cty. Dep’t of Revenue, No. 2017L050596 (Ill. Cir. Ct., Cook Cty., filed June 27, 2017). The Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed for the order along with preliminary and permanent injunctions against imposition of the tax, arguing it violates the uniformity clause of the state constitution and is unconstitutionally vague. The plaintiffs allege that the tax applies to distributors and retailers who sell bottled sweetened beverages and syrups or powders used to produce SSBs but not to SSBs prepared by hand, such as those made by baristas, even if they contain more sugar than a comparable bottled or “pre-made” product.   Issue 640

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