Millions of Americans will be enjoying picnics and cookouts in advance of July 4 fireworks. In a few places, though, the sodas in those outings’ coolers will cost a bit more.
So-called soda taxes took effect in Oakland, California, and Boulder, Colorado, on July 1. A similar levy was scheduled in the Chicago area, but the day before a judge put Cook County’s penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages on hold at least until July 12.
Bay Area beverage battle: Oakland voters approved the tax, which applies to more than soda pop, in November 2016. The added tax, say supporters, should discourage some consumers, especially younger beverage buyers, thereby helping to improve residents’ health.
In addition, argue opponents of sweetened beverages, the added revenue will “offset the extra costs borne by society for extra medical and dental care, waste, pollution and even greenhouse gases associated with the production of sugary drinks.”
Higher tax in Rocky Mountain state: Boulder’s tax, officially known as the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Product Distribution Tax when it was approved by voters last November, is 2 cents per ounce. It’s projected to generate close to $4 million during its first full year.
Since Boulder’s sweetened beverage tax is the steepest (so far), those 2 pennies earn this week’s By the Numbers figure.
As in Oakland, Boulder’s new soda tax money will be spent on promoting healthy eating (and drinking) habits and general wellness programs and chronic disease prevention efforts, particularly those designed to help low income residents.
8 cities target sugary drinks: In addition to Oakland, Boulder and pending Cook County soda taxes, similar beverage levies have been passed via ballot initiatives or local legislative bodies and already implemented in Berkeley, San Francisco and Albany, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Seattle, Washington.
We can debate which lawmakers are more worried about, the health of their constituents or bank balances. But what is agreed upon by most is that sin taxes can be complicated, confusing and sometimes downright illogical. That’s evidenced by the way the soda taxes parse just what drinks are and aren’t taxable.
And it seems that in too many cases, soda and other taxes targeting bad habits ultimately do little for a taxing jurisdiction’s overall revenue.
That financial reality, however, won’t likely stop cities, many of which are in as dire fiscal straits as their states, from looking to soda taxes as an alternative revenue stream.
You also might find these items of interest:
- Soda taxes among 2016 ballot measures approved by voters
- Calories or volume: Which is the better tax on sugary drinks?
- Alabama’s governor proposes a soda tax more for his state’s fiscal rather than physical benefits