Seattle City Council Approves Tax on Sugary Beverages

Sugary Beverages

After debating for months, the Seattle City Council has approved a whole new tax on soda as several other sugary beverages, with an aim of raising millions for healthy food & education programs. Tax of 1.75 cents/ounce of sugary beverage has been imposed on beverage distributor viz. Coke and Pepsi, energy drinks, sports drinks, and other sweetened drinks. Community groups and public health advocates cheered as the measure passed, winning by 7-1 vote. They have stated that this initiative would reduce sugary drinks consumption, having less nutritional value and linked to diabetes, obesity and various other health problems. The tax previously included diet soda, a drink popular among upper classes, but was removed prior to the final vote.

Critics Calling the Tax to be Regressive, Stating its Impacts on Low-Income Customers

Members of the council, Kshama Sawant and Lisa Herbold, tried to lower the tax rate and include diet-soda in it, but were however unsuccessful. Several critics called the tax regressive, stating that it would heavily impact low-income consumers. Labour groups and businesses tried to oppose the tax, stating that it would cost jobs, affecting small businesses. Joining a handful of cities across the nation, Seattle has imposed the soda tax. Previous month depicted resound rejection of soda tax proposal by Santa Fe voters, New Mexico. Nevertheless, cities including Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Oakland have accepted the proposal of tax on sugary beverages.

Around US$ 15 Mn Funds to be Raised Annually by Tax on Beverages

Bruce Harrell, Council President, proposed amendments to explicitly exclude drinks such as Barista-made coffee, milk drinks, or flavoured lattes ordered at Starbucks. On the contrary, Lisa Herbold proposed to explicitly include them. However, each of them failed. The tax is expected to raise nearly US$ 15 Mn annually. Some of this money would be utilised for supporting Fresh Bucks program, helping people using food stamps in buying more vegetables and fruits at farmers markets. The council further approved an amendment offered by Deborah Juarez, stating eligibility of soup kitchens and food banks in receiving funds.

Councilman who sponsored Seattleā€™s measure, Tim Burgess, stated the incontrovertible evidence of sugary drink to have negative health outcomes. This idea was proposed by Mayor Ed Murray in February, so as to raise funds for programs for enabling determination of education disparities between minority and white students, and for promotion of access to healthy food. Some of the funds raised would also be utilised for job retraining & placement programs, with an aim to help working families, who are unable to afford healthy food.

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