Soda gets a bad rap. It’s full of sugar, or full of chemical replacements for sugar—both of which have been proven to cause life-threatening health issues, like obesity, as well as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Now, Philadelphia has become the first major U.S. city to approve a tax on soda, resulting in a legal fight between the city and the soda industry.
Mayor Jim Kenney, who supported the tax, called the newly passed law “a historic investment in our neighborhoods and our education system.” The bill was passed by a vote of 13-4.
“One of the mayor’s selling points in persuading the City Council to support the measure is that much of the estimated $91 million the tax would bring to the city’s coffers each year would boost funding for programs including citywide pre-K education,” says NPR’s Allison Aubrey.
The tax amounts to 1.5 cents per ounce, and “will hit thousands of products, essentially anything bottled, canned or from a fountain with either sugar or artificial sweetener added, save for a few exceptions,” Philly.com reports.
With the exception of baby formula, products that contain more than 50 percent milk, fruit and vegetable juice, the law lists “non-100%-fruit drinks; flavoured water; energy drinks; pre-sweetened coffee or tea; and non-alcoholic beverages intended to be mixed into an alcoholic drink,” as taxable products. It will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.
“The tax will be levied on distributors. Only time will tell how much will trickle down to consumers. The tax could add up to 18 cents to the cost of a 12-ounce can, $1 to the cost of a 2-liter container, and $2.16 to the cost of a 12-pack,” Philly.com explains.
The American Beverage Association released a statement following the approved bill, saying that they vowed to “take legal action to stop it,” and claiming that it’s a “regressive tax that unfairly singles out beverages, including low- and no-calorie choices.”
The statement also added: “The fact remains that these taxes are discriminatory and highly unpopular — not only with Philadelphians, but with all Americans.” They even argued that the tax is illegal, violating “the Pennsylvania constitution, which says a tax can’t target a single item.”
But Mayor Kenney isn’t backing down. He states: “We believe we’re on strong legal ground. We’ll see what they do, how they approach it. They spent a long time twisting the facts of this debate on television with millions of dollars so we’ll fight the next fight when it comes.”