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Soda tax ballot measures fizzle in California

By Lisa Baertlein

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Voters in two California cities rejected measures that would have imposed the nation's first penny-per-ounce taxes on businesses that sell sodas and other sugary drinks in an effort to boost municipal revenue and fight obesity.

In El Monte, 76.8 percent of voters said no, while in Richmond, 66.9 percent opposed the measure, according to final results from Tuesday's election.

Calls to tax sugary drinks have gathered steam as more cities and states struggle to close budget gaps and American waistlines continue to expand.

The American Beverage Association - which represents PepsiCo Inc, Coca-Cola Inc, Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc and other beverage companies - has spent millions of dollars to beat back soda taxes around the country. The ABA has a strong record of defeating soda tax efforts.

In September New York City passed the first U.S. ban of oversized sugary drinks.

A health board outlawed sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces nearly everywhere they are sold, except groceries and convenience stores. Violators of the ban, which does not include diet sodas, face a $200 fine.

About one-third of Americans are obese, and about 10 percent of the nation's healthcare bill is tied to obesity-related diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

(Editing by Xavier Briand)

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