Will Soda in Your City Soon Cost More?


Photo by: GrigoriosMoraitis ©Grigorios Moraitis

GrigoriosMoraitis, Grigorios Moraitis

Is it time for budget- and health-minded beverage buyers to switch to seltzer or stick to water? If you live in a growing number of U.S. cities, sucking down sodas and other sugary beverages will now cost you more, thanks to new taxes.

Here’s a rundown of cities and counties that have enacted soda taxes, starting with five that did so just this month:

Cook County, Ill.: The populous Illinois county that is home to Chicago will see a penny-per-ounce beverage tax — over and above the usual sales tax — added to the purchase of sweetened drinks such as soda, iced tea, lemonade and sports drinks, whether bottled, canned or from a fountain. The tax, which goes into effect July 1, was approved by the Cook County Board on Thursday, November 10, and is expected to raise $224 million in revenue per year.

San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, Calif.: Voters in these Bay Area municipalities overwhelmingly passed soda taxes on Tuesday, November 8, in an effort to lower rates of diabetes and obesity — and raise revenues.

Boulder: Residents of this Colorado city voted to pass a two-cent-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary beverages on Election Day this year; the tax will be levied on beverage distributors, not at stores.

Philadelphia: In June 2016, the city council approved a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on both sugary and artificially sweetened beverages. It will go into effect on January 1, 2017.

Berkeley, Calif.: Proceeds from Berkeley’s 2014 soda tax have thus far totaled $2 million, which has been used to support cooking, gardening and nutrition programming at public schools and community organizations working to address health issues, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Meanwhile, one study found soda consumption there had dropped by 21 percent.

Public health advocates have cheered the initiatives, which have received backing from former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. And nutritionists like Amy Gorin, M.S., RDN, and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, predict it could be part of a growing movement that has long-term positive effects, including lowering BMIs for both children and adults.

While drinking an occasional soda doesn’t pose a major threat to your health, Gorin notes, regular consumption of sugary beverages may, increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. She cites research indicating that consuming even one extra 12-ounce sugary drink every day can lead to weight gain of one extra pound every four years.

Soda taxes “could certainly help lower soda consumption,” Gorin says, noting that not only has sugary beverage consumption gone down sharply in Berkeley, but people there are drinking more water as well.

Gorin says she’d like to see more being done to educate consumers about making healthy, nutritious food choices, too. “Soda isn’t the only culprit,” when it comes to empty calories and chronic diseases, she says, “but addressing intake of it is a good start.”

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer.

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