STOCKTON — The local chapter of an Oakland-based youth organization plans to hold a rally outside Stockton City Hall next week to raise awareness of diabetes and its health risks.
The Organization and Leadership Academy will be out at 425 N. El Dorado St. at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The group will also have five members speak to Stockton City Council members at the beginning of Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. meeting, urging leaders to take action against the American Beverage Association, spokeswoman Ashley Vazquez said.
“We’ve been trying to educate the community about diabetes and overconsumption of sugary beverages,” Vazquez said. “Most people aren’t aware that these drinks can have damaging effects on a person’s health, especially youth.”
Vazquez said the group began its “Less Soda, Better Health” campaign last year, surveying the Stockton community and gathering some 6,000 signatures supporting the idea of a soda tax in the city.
The tax, she said, would have raised funds for programs promoting diabetes awareness and healthier living choices.
However, when Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1838 last month, which banned cities and counties from imposing new soda taxes for the next 12 years, TOLA’s campaign was stopped cold.
“The work we were doing was up in the air,” Vazquez said. “We were gathering signatures and gaining momentum, and now we can’t really move forward in that way.”
According to the Sacramento Bee, Brown signed the bill to prevent the American Beverage Association from placing its own measure on the November ballot.
That measure, the Bee reports, would require any soda taxes proposed by cities and counties to be passed with a two-thirds majority vote, rather than a simple majority.
Brown said the ABA’s ballot measure, if passed, would have made it difficult for municipalities to increase other existing taxes.
Despite the hangup, Vazquez said the council is planning to present a proclamation during the meeting declaring July 17 Diabetes Awareness Day in Stockton.
She said the 18-member chapter of TOLA came up with the idea for a possible soda tax after seeing successes in Bay Area communities such as Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco.
Those cities in recent years have passed one-cent taxes on all sugar-sweetened beverages, raising millions of dollars in funds for educational programs.
In addition to taking cues from these cities, Vazquez said many TOLA members were inspired to take up the cause because they had direct experiences with the effects of diabetes.
For Vazquez, it was health issues affecting her 4-year-old sister many years ago that motivated her to action.
She said her sister drank large amounts of sugary drinks including soda and juice, and ultimately had to have several teeth removed.
“My family had no idea giving her all these sugary drinks would cause any problems,” she said. “A lot of us had similar stories of people with diabetes and other health issues, and I found many people I spoke to while we were surveying also had similar stories.”
Although TOLA won’t be able to push for a soda tax anytime soon, Vazquez is hoping City Council members on Tuesday discuss taking other actions to show disapproval of the soda ban and the ABA.
She added TOLA will continue to look at other ways to raise awareness of the effects of sugary drinks.
Contact reporter Wes Bowers at (209) 546-8258, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @WesBo26.