Philadelphia Promotes Health With a Tax on Sugary and Diet Drinks

Philadelphia Promotes Health With a Tax on Sugary and Diet Drinks

June 16, 2016

ChangeLab Solutions celebrates a landmark decision in Philadelphia today to add a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on the distribution of sugary drinks and diet drinks in the city. Philadelphia is the second city in the nation to pass a tax of this kind. It follows in the footsteps of several communities around the world, including Berkeley, California, where voters approved the first penny-per-ounce general tax on sugary drinks last November.

The Philadelphia City Council approved Mayor Jim Kenney’s tax proposal in spite of the opposition’s exorbitant spending to defeat it. The tax-generated revenue will be used to fund important local initiatives, including the expansion of pre-kindergarten and the improvement of parks, recreation centers, and libraries.

Sugary drinks are known to be the largest single contributor to added calories in American diets, and research continues to link sugary drink consumption to obesity and chronic disease. Emerging science suggests artificially sweetened, calorie-free drinks are also unhealthy. Many communities have considered imposing a tax on products such as soda and other sugary drinks to make those beverages less appealing to consumers and provide a dedicated source of revenue for public health programs.

“On any given day, roughly half of all Americans over age two drink at least one sugary beverage,” said Ian McLaughlin, senior staff attorney and program director at ChangeLab Solutions. “Measures like this one can help combat industry efforts to market unhealthy products to kids. It’s important that we make the healthy choice the easy choice for ourselves and our children.”

ChangeLab Solutions has developed numerous resources for communities interested in addressing sugary drinks. The Model California Ordinance Imposing a Business License Tax on Sales of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages is for public health advocates who would like to propose a local sugary drink tax. The Model Local Resolution Supporting a Statewide Excise Tax or Regulatory Fee on SSBs and the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Playbook are also valuable resources for policymakers and advocates.