Seattle Approves Sugar Tax

On Monday, the Seattle City Council approved a new tax to be issued on distributors of sugary drinks like soda pop. Those in favor of the new tax defended that it would not only cut back on consumption of the unhealthy beverages on the market today, but the revenue would go towards helping the city to improve access to nutritious foods in the chronically underserved low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, something that plagues many municipalities throughout the United States.

As a matter of fact, the council argues that soda companies deliberately—and heavily—market to children within those communities, where people struggle more with sugar-linked health issues (like obesity) than other communities.

The 7-1 vote (Councilmember Lisa Herbold, the only holdout, with an absent Councilmember Kshama Sawant also not able to cast) puts Seattle on the map with other cities around the country who have adopted similar policies. These cities include: Austin, TS; Philadelphia, PA; and Berkeley, CA.

Indeed, Victor Colman—the director of the Seattle-based Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition—comments, “It’s a huge win for Seattle. It’s not a panacea for the problem of childhood obesity, but it’s a huge marker to take this step. Consumption drops will happen, and we’re going to see stronger health in the communities that need this the most.”

Of course, this action on Monday only comes after months of vigorous debate over the added tax, which was originally proposed by Mayor Ed Murray. During the debates, business groups and a handful of labor unions had warned that the added expense would only cripple entrepreneurs, resulting in job losses. The debate went back and forth, too, in regards to things like whether or not to include diet soda, whether or not to include latte syrups, what tax rate they should employ, and how the new revenue will be spent.

Ultimately, then, the council settled with a rate of 1.75 cents per ounce. That means a 2-liter bottle of soda will carry an additional $1.18 tax. They also decided that diet sodas will not be taxes with the council opting to exclude baby formulas, medicines, weight-loss drinks, and 100 percent fruit juice (as they all contain sugar). However, sports drinks (like Gatorade), energy drinks (like Red Bull and Monster), and fruit drinks (like Sunny D and various punch/cocktail style beverages), and flavored syrups used at soda fountains will all be subject to a tax.