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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sanders tells soda tax opponents to stop using his name

FILE - In this May 12, 2016 file photo, Jesus Alonso, center, holds a sign between other volunteers after a news conference announcing that San Francisco backers of a tax on sugary beverages have enough signatures to put the measure on the  ballot. In November 2016, voters in San Francisco and Oakland will consider a penny per ounce tax on sugar laden drinks. (Jeff Chiu / AP)
By Janie Har Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO ( – Saying that too much sugar is a serious health problem, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders told the soft drink industry to stop using his name in ads fighting proposed soda taxes in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Vermont senator said in a statement provided Thursday that campaign commercials and mailers implying that he opposes soda tax measures on the Nov. 8 ballot in San Francisco and Oakland are false. Neighboring Albany also has a penny-per-ounce tax measure on its ballot.

“I have not taken any position on those ballot items and I have asked the American Beverage Association to stop using my name in connection with this misleading advertising,” Sanders said in a statement.

His Senate campaign noted his objections in a cease-and-desist letter sent to the association on Oct. 10.

Soda tax opponents, funded largely by the beverage association, have gleefully touted Sanders in their campaign against the measures. Sanders opposed a soda tax in Philadelphia, calling it a regressive tax that would hurt poor consumers.

Bay Area opponents say a tax would harm small grocers and customers, and that the money raised could be used for anything by city government. Joe Arellano, a spokesman for the opposition campaigns, did not have an immediate response to Sanders’ statement.

But the news cheered tax proponents.

“We’re very pleased with his action to clarify the record, and I would call on the television stations that are currently running the misleading ads to stop doing so immediately,” said Dr. John Maa, secretary of the San Francisco Medical Society and tax proponent.

Sanders said Thursday that the version of the tax he opposed in Philadelphia was three times higher than those being considered in the Bay Area.

“Excessive sugar consumption is a serious health problem for children and all of us,” he said in his statement. “Every community in our country will determine how best to address this major health crisis.”

The tax on sugary drinks– including sweetened tea, soda, and energy drinks–is on distributors and is not paid by customers who buy the drinks. There is no tax on diet drinks.