The Soda Industry’s Open Letter to San Francisco on the Soda Tax

Kid drinking four sodas

Hello San Franciscans,

We surely speak for everyone when we say that taxing sugary drinks is a horrible idea — especially for those of us in the soda industry who sell over $65 billion worth of soft drinks in America each year.

But rest assured, we’ve got your back! Through our trade group, the American Beverage Association, we’ve hired the nation’s most aggressive issue advocacy team to fight your city’s proposed 2 cents per ounce sugary drink tax.  It’s the least we can do, since from before you could walk, we’ve drummed this crucial message into your heads: Drink sugary drinks like water!

Thank you for your cooperation! Now that your Debbie Downer Board of Supervisors want to raise the price, we will fight for our God-given right to sell you cheap liquid sugar, and to have public insurance pay for your insulin.

What kind of sick politician wants you to drink less of a product that has brought you “Open Happiness” and the desire to “Live for Now?” Would you rather listen to the Negative Nellies telling you that your teeth are rotting, you’re raising your risk of cancer, and your arteries are clogging from your sugary drink habit? Why harp on the strong association between diabetes and our wholesome sugary drinks when we’re working overtime to distract you and change the topic?

Some studies claim that soda makes your bones deteriorate too, but that’s nothing that a twice-yearly shot, developed by our good friends in the pharmaceutical industry, can’t treat. Ignore the public health naysayers who deliberately choose to focus on one little minor side effect of the shot – one or both of your thigh bones may break even though you have not fallen or experienced other trauma.

And what about that fear-mongering Norwegian study that found that teens who drink the most sugary soft drinks also have more mental health problems? Since when have teenagers been mentally stable? Any teen that doesn’t have mental health problems needs to be examined by a specialist!

In the midst of all this gloom, we tried to cheer you up by commissioning a few of our own studiesto counter the endless drumbeat of bad news about our drinks. We’re darned proud of this inspiring headline about our latest, uplifting research: Study Funded By Soda Industry Concludes Diet Soda Helps People Lose Weight.

Unfortunately, our integrity is under attack from the humorless public health community, which calls the research we fund“propaganda” and “biased.” What a load of bull! We never buy study results, nor do we try to influence politicians with our money. To clarify, that catered reception PepsiCo held for California legislators on the day they killed the soda warning label bill, had nothing to do with our deep appreciation!

And why the big stink that we’re violating San Francisco’s financial disclosure laws? We always pay our debts. In fact, we’ve budgeted so much money for the fines we will incur that it’s on par with our very healthy budget for local campaign contributions.

In spite of all this, we know in our hearts (which are NOT the three-chambered reptilian variety as rumored) that you’re seething about the unfairness of this tax, even though we’ve yet to see a speck of evidence. Why have there been no raging consumer protests, except for the ones we organized where almost no one showed up?

Don’t you want to do something dramatic, in the spirit of the Boston Tea Party, like pour two liter bottles of Mountain Dew into the San Francisco Bay, en masse? Actually, thanks for not doing that because the nit-picking soda haters would blame us for the tiniest little environmental consequence a soda dump may cause, like two-headed halibut.

But you can be certain, friends that protests are on the way! Our crack PR team is planning spontaneous anti-soda tax rallies all across San Francisco this fall. Here’s one that everyone can join – our upcoming “Sugar High” drink-in, in The Haight. Bring the kids! Participants who chug a two liter bottle of any sugary soft drink, while posting selfies with the hashtag #BigSodaLovesMe, will receive a $100 coupon for any urgent care facility and a Monster Energy puffy vest.

We are also stepping up our anti-soda tax messages that trumpet our ingenious theory of energy balance. This concept, created by our crack PR team after an all-night strategy session in a local pub, says that you can drink all the sugary drinks you want, as long as you burn off the calories with exercise. Simple, huh? For example, one of our interns has been walking the streets for the past two hours to burn off a couple of bottles of Coke.  We expect her back any minute and we’re only docking her one-hour of pay!

Soon, every San Franciscan will find on their doorstep our gorgeous fliers warning that a soda tax will make the city less affordable.  Now we know what you’re thinking – which alternate universe do these yahoos come from if they think San Francisco has ever been affordable?  But that’s not the point. The real point is this – suppose some sugary drink consumers stop buying our products and (quelle horreur!) switch to tap water? That’s enough to make us wet our pants – and no, my friends our urine is not carbonated.

Here’s a bit of good news. We are cleverly trying to drum up outrage by calling the proposed soda tax, a tax on “groceries.” We tested this language in focus groups and people got really steamed! One guy became so infuriated – he actually believed that the tax would be on everything in his grocery cart – that we had to rush him, via Uber, to his therapist’s office.

By the way, here’s a little mental health advice: If you’re ever feeling that enraged, sit down, take some deep breaths, and drink a refreshing soft drink!

We also want to remind you, with a totally straight face, how much we really, really, really, really care about your low-income residents who will be hit hard by this tax.  We love to call this tax regressive because it sounds both scientific and scary. Don’t believe the haters who say that we didn’t give a rat’s ass about the poor’s welfare before the soda tax was proposed. We love low-income consumers so dearly that we’ve been targeting them for years with special marketing.  Thanks to us, they have the highest rate of sugary drink consumption in San Francisco!

Finally, for the cheerless whiners who enjoy pointing out that low-income San Franciscans also happen to have the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in the city, we say… well, we have nothing to say right now.  But don’t worry, friends, because we’re busy fabricating data to nip that little problem in the bud.

Stay tuned!

Your Friend,

The Soda Industry

P.S. Would you like to be a plaintiff in our lawsuit opposing the San Francisco soda tax? City residents and non-residents can apply, but non-residents must move here and immediately register to vote. Candidates for the Board of Supervisors are strongly encouraged to submit an application.

First appeared on BeyondChron.

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