Officials in Seattle passed the second largest Soda Tax in the U.S. Monday in an effort to close “the food security gap” and dissuade residents from buying sugary drinks.
The Seattle City Council approved the measure in a 7-1 vote, placing a 1.75 cents per ounce tax on beverages containing sugar. Councilman Tim Burgess, who sponsored the tax after Democratic Mayor Ed Murray proposed the idea in February, argues soda and other drinks are a threat to public health.
“Liquid sugar has zero nutritional benefits,” he said, according to The Washington Post.
The tax will be implemented at the distribution level, meaning that retailers will likely be forced to pass on the extra cost to consumers. It is second only to Boulder, Colo., as the city with the highest soda tax in the U.S.
“The City Council turned its back today on small business owners and working families with this job-killing tax that will drive up costs and further increase income inequality in Seattle,” said a statement from the business coalition Keep Seattle Livable for All. “Those who can afford this tax the least will be hurt the most.”
Critics argue it will disproportionately impact minority communities and low-income families by spiking the cost of hundreds of popular drinks. Activists in favor of the tax said it is a victory that will go towards “closing the food security gap.” The revenue raised by the tax will be invested in programs that help working-class families buy healthy food.
The city is following the example of Philadelphia, which imposed a 1.5 cents per ounce soda tax in January, drawing the ire of business owners and residents. By the end of February, beverage sales had cratered 30 to 50 percent and forced layoffs to offset the new costs.
Many residents are now going shopping for their beverages out of the city to avoid the onerous tax.
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