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Tax on Sugar?

When the city of Berkeley, CA was the first to institute a tax on sugary drinks at 1 cent/ounce, it seemed like nothing more than an outlandish science experiment. But what is now raising some eyebrows is that Philadelphia, PA (with over 1.5 million residents) has since followed suit by passing a 1.5 cent/ounce tax on drinks that contain sugar. In other words, people used to buying a 12-pack of sodas will see an increase of roughly $2.16 in price of a product that usually sells for $6-7. City officials predict that the new tax will raise revenues totaling over $91 million annually, which lawmakers propose should be used in public education funding.

The legislation passed amid sharply divided opinions, making the issue of a “sugar tax” extremely controversial. In an effort to fight the new tax, the American Beverage Association led a “No Philly Grocery Tax” campaign, which included a series of interviews with local small grocery store owners who explained that the tax would hurt their businesses.

Why is all of this important? The new tax raises hard questions about what will happen next. Will other prominent cities pass similar tax laws now that Philadelphia has potentially set new precedent? Will taxes be levied on other sugary products… Say, on cookies or ice cream, for example? Will society wage war on sugar in the same way it has done against the tobacco industry?

I hope society does wage war on sugar. Of course, it’s not just the sugar that will be involved. The powerful companies that make it will bring all their resources to bare.

Michelle LeJeune

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