Democratic lawmakers are proposing a new tax on “sugary drinks” in hopes that forcing consumers to pay more will encourage them to stop consuming unhealthy beverages.
Democrat Brianne Nadeau, a member of the Washington, D.C. city council, introduced a measure this week that would place an excise tax of 1.5 cents per ounce on drinks that the city government considers “sugary.”
The legislation would also repeal an existing 8% sales tax on sugary drinks, which is 2% higher than the existing sales tax in Washington.
Democrats think the sugary drink tax would “begin rectifying longstanding health inequities made even more apparent by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Mary Cheh, another council member who sponsored the bill, said that “This excise tax would go right on the product. Thereby making it apparent to the purchaser that it is more expensive than it was.”
She also said the sugary drink tax will combat “chronic diseases associated with the consumption of sugary drinks,” as well as childhood obesity and homelessness in Washington.
As explained in the press release:
The legislation takes important steps toward providing equitable access to nutritious food for District residents experiencing homelessness by requiring that meals served at the District’s shelters and transitional housing are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and by applying greater oversight over food service vendors. It also establishes grants to support nutrition education, cooking lessons, and gardens at family shelters and transitional housing to create healthy environments.
Lawmakers proposed the tax on sugary drinks back in 2019, but it ultimately failed.
However, Nadeau claims, similar taxes like the ones put in place in Philadelphia and Berkeley prove that they can be successful.
For example, in 2017, Philadelphia became the second U.S. city to implement a sugary drink tax. The medical journal JAMA found that sales of sugary drinks decreased 51% during the first year of the tax. But sales in towns and counties next to Philadelphia increased.
The National Bureau of Economic Research conducted similar research and came to the same conclusion.
The NBER also found that Philadelphia’s sugary drink tax did not have a positive impact on the overall health of adults or children.
“The tax did not have a substantial effect on the frequency of adults’ consumption of other beverages. We generally do not find detectable effects of the tax on children’s consumption of beverages,” the researchers said.