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Sugar-sweetened beverage taxation in the USA, state preemption of local efforts

November 26, 2018

Public Health Nutrition,

Jennifer Pomeranz and Mark Pertschuk,

November 26, 2018-

We read with interest the Commentary by Hagenaars et al. on sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxation in 2017(1) published in this journal. The authors provided an insightful perspective on reasons behind the quick
spread of SSB taxes in the EU compared with the USA. While SSB tax efforts are moving forward at the state and
local levels in the USA, the authors are correct that a direct threat to the progression of SSB taxes (among other
public health policies) is the concurrent spread of state preemption(2).

Preemption eliminates the ability of community members to decide which public health measures are appropriate for their communities, despite the long and successful history of grassroots public health advocacy in the USA, as in the case of tobacco control. The authors noted that California preempted, or withdrew, the ability of locales within the state to enact new SSB taxes for the next 12 years(1). It is important to note that prior to California’s action, Michigan and Arizona also preempted the ability of locales to enact SSB taxes in those states(3,4).

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