The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to ban grocery stores from displaying junk food, sugary drinks, and other processed foods in store check-out lines, where shoppers are tempted to make final impulse purchases before paying.
According to NBC News, the prohibition will go into effect next March, but will only apply to 25 of the California city’s largest stores, including CVS and Safeway. Anyone who wants junk food will now have to walk into the store and look for it, instead of grabbing it at the register.
“The checkout line at grocery stores has long been synonymous with kids begging mom and dad for a candy bar,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín (D) said in a statement, reports the news agency. “Impulse buying at checkout contributes to high levels of sugar consumption in American diets, and we have to provide healthy alternatives to enhance public health and get a hand on epidemic levels of diabetes.”
City Council member Kate Harrison, who co-sponsored the ordinance, has defended the move, arguing that it isn’t really a ban, and will actually be good for businesses because it incentivizes buying healthier options with larger profit margins for them, reports Fox Business.
“It’s not really a ban, it’s a nudge,” said Harrison. “What we have discovered is that this law enforces good behavioral economics and facilitates better choices.”
“It’s good for business,” she said. “In fact, we think they might even make money, particularly because it aligns with consumer desires.”
Several years ago, Berkeley passed the first “sin tax” on soda in the United States, according to Politico. The city’s 2014 measure, which was overwhelmingly approved by Berkeley voters, enacted a $.01 per ounce soda tax.
“Berkeley is unlike the rest of the country,” Chris Gindlesperger, a spokesman for the American Beverage Association, said at the time, also saying: “If politicians want to stake their political reputation on this, they do so at their own risk.”
While the soda tax remains in place, the effort, which was partially funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, failed to reach a nation-wide or even state-wide appeal in even the most liberal states. (According to The Washington Post, Bloomberg dumped $650,000 into the city’s soda tax campaign).
Earlier this month, Berkeley City Council passed an ordinance allowing the city to fine residents $100 per violation for not wearing a mask outside if they are within 30 feet of someone else. According to KQED, the ordinance applies to all residents unless they:
- Have documentation from a medical professional that advises you not to wear a face covering
- Have trouble breathing or a physical disability that prevents you from wearing a face covering
- Are not able to take off a face covering without help
- Are in a work situation where wearing a face covering would create a safety hazard
The news agency reports that deaf people are not exempt, but may remove their masks if they rely on mouth movements while communicating with others.
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