Seattle’s new tax
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray released a new statement explaining an in-the-works proposal to levy a local tax on sugary drinks.
While the distributors of sodas, energy drinks, added-sugar juices, and sweetened teas would be taxed .02 cents per ounce, coffee shops (*cough* Starbucks *cough*) seem to be conveniently exempt in this java mecca.
Everyone loves a loophole
The incoming ordinance will define sugary drinks as “liquids with a specified amount of caloric sweetener, syrups and powders,” and the tax will apply to all distributors, big and small, within Seattle. It will rightly exempt things like 100 percent fruit juice, infant formula, and medicine.
But, with uncanny specificity, the proposal will also give a free pass to “in-store prepared coffee beverages.”
Probably because the 61 grams of sugar in your grande mocha Starbucks Frappuccino isn’t added, it’s an innate part of the Starbucks experience, right?
Murray plans to send the anticipated $16 million in revenue resulting from the tax toward “major new investments in education to eliminate the opportunity gap between white students and African American/Black students and other historically underrepresented students of color,” based on programs recommended by the Education Summit Advisory Group.
Some examples of potential programs to fund with sugar money include the Parent-Child Program, and the Fresh Bucks program, which aims to expand access to healthy food.
The true cost of sugary drinks
The statement cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who points to a similar tax in Berkeley, California, which managed to cut down on the consumption of sugary drinks by about 20 percent.
The CDC has said that soda taxes are “the single most effective remedy to reverse the obesity epidemic.”
In 2015, the World Health Organization also urged countries to combat obesity and other health problems with sugary drink taxes. “Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes,” said Dr. Douglas Bettcher, head of WHO’s department for preventing noncommunicable diseases. “If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives.”
Even though this tax is still just a gleam in Murray’s eye, the soda industry is ready to fight for their right to sell unhealthy stuff. “Seattle taxpayers and small businesses are certainly in favor of making sure all Seattle students have equal opportunities to succeed in school,” said the Washington Beverage Association in a statement.
“But there has to be a better way to do this than with a highly regressive tax that makes prices skyrocket on working families and hurts Seattle small businesses.”
Not the first, nor the last
Despite pushback, Seattle is not alone in considering such a tax. In addition to Berkeley, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Oakland, and Boulder, Colorado already have similar taxes in place. [clickToTweet tweet=”Healthy living is slowly being prioritized, despite corporate lobbying.” quote=”Healthy living is slowly being prioritized, despite corporate lobbying.”]
And we know this story – the tobacco industry continues to be curbed by taxes and advertising restrictions, to great effect. Sugar taxes will likely be everywhere eventually, and we’ll marvel at how great low-sugar can feel.