Philadelphia edges closer to soda tax in defeat for Big Sugar
NEW YORK - City council members in Philadelphia have voted in favor of introducing a levy on soda and other sweetened drinks, moving toward a tax that would be a major victory for U.S. health campaigners who say sugary drinks cause obesity and di...
NEW YORK - City council members in Philadelphia have voted in favor of introducing a levy on soda and other sweetened drinks, moving toward a tax that would be a major victory for U.S. health campaigners who say sugary drinks cause obesity and diabetes.
A majority of members voiced support for the measure on Wednesday, and it will come up for a formal vote next Thursday. Passage would make Philadelphia the largest U.S. city with such a tax.
The measure would add a 1.5 cents-per-ounce tax to soft drinks with added sugar and other sweeteners used in regular and diet sodas made by companies like Coca-Cola Co and PepsiCo Inc.
The measure is expected to raise $91 million over the next year to be used to fund pre-kindergarten programs, community schools and reinvestment in parks and recreation centers, the city said.
More policymakers around the world have been trying to limit sugar consumption and increase public awareness of the risks of sweeteners. The United States in January changed federal dietary guidelines. In March, Britain joined France, Belgium, Hungary and Mexico with plans to impose taxes on drinks with added sugar.
Health and nutrition advocates cheered the outcome in Philadelphia, the fifth-largest U.S. city, with 1.6 million people.
The result "is perhaps the most important defeat for Big Soda since the adoption of a nationwide soda tax in Mexico," said Michael Jacobson, the president of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, in a statement.
Critics said the measure will disproportionately hurt the poor and prompt Philadelphians to travel to nearby suburbs to buy soda.
"It is a regressive, discriminatory tax and will hurt the incomes of working people and harm local businesses," said a spokeswoman from the American Beverage Association, whose members include Coke and Pepsi.
Supporters said Philadelphia's focus on how the tax will generate untapped revenue could help supporters avoid accusations that they are trying to make the city a "nanny state" interfering in the personal lives of residents. That may embolden other cities to follow suit.
So far, Berkeley, California, is the only U.S. city with a sugar tax. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to limit soda sizes but a court struck down that measure.