The City Council in Seattle voted earlier this week in favor of levying a special tax on sodas and sugary drinks, adding the Councils to the growing list of local government agencies that have been doing the same across the country. The “Soda Tax” is being introduced in the interest of public health. The bill, which will be signed next week by Mayor Ed Murray, gained approval by a 7-1 vote even in the face of strong disapproval from the American Beverage Association (ABA). The ABA criticized the bill, stating that it would impact small businesses, along with poor or working class families.
The new enactment will make Seattle, the largest city in Washington State, a part of an expanding movement that seeks to regulate the consumption of sodas and sugary drinks, which are known for their high-calorific value. Medical experts blame such drinks for driving the obesity rates in the country, especially among children. Other cities that have voted in favor of the “Soda Tax” include San Francisco, Chicago, Cook County, Philadelphia, Boulder, Oakland, and Albany etc.
Several studies on the topic indicate that sugary sodas are the greatest contributors as far as empty calories are concerned. They’ve also been tagged as a significant causal factor in various health conditions associated with obesity. The new tax will go into effect in January 2018 and will require all distributors of sodas and sugary drinks (including sweetened teas, ready-to-drink coffee, flavored water, and energy drinks) to pay 1.75 cents as tax per ounce.
So, a 12-ounce drink will now cost 21 cents extra. An identical amount will also be charged on sweetening syrups that are sued to sweeten fountain sodas at fast-food joints and restaurants. The objective is to reduce sales by shifting the higher cost onto consumers; a plan that’s proven to work before. In Berkeley, the Soda Tax caused the sales of sweet drinks to drop by 10% within a year.
The soda tax in Seattle is expected to provide significant revenue to the city; an estimated $15 million per year. However, there is some good news for consumers and businesses. The tax will not applicable to 100% fruit juices, 0 calorie drinks, and dairy beverages. But, the bill doesn’t clarify whether the sugar-based syrups used to sweeten milk-based coffee drinks prepared in coffee chains such as Seattle’s own Starbucks would be covered under the “Soda Tax”. City Councilman Tim Burgess believes that this will be cleared out eventually as regulations continue to be developed and implemented.