By a vote of 13-4, the Philadelphia City Council approved a new tax on sugary and diet beverages, becoming the first major city in the US to do so.
The tax, set to take effect Jan. 1, levies a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-added and artificially sweetened beverages such as sodas, teas and sports drinks. The tax is applied to distributors. If they pass the entirely onto consumers, a 20-ounce bottle of soda would increase 30 cents. Philadelphia officials say the tax will raise an estimated $91 million during the next year to fund pre-K expansion, community schools and reinvestments in parks and recreation centers, in addition to padding the city’s general fund.
In a statement, the American Beverage Association called the measure a “regressive tax that unfairly singles out beverages – including low- and no-calorie choices. But most importantly, it is against the law. So we will side with the majority of the people of Philadelphia who oppose this tax and take legal action to stop it.”
Berkeley, CA was the first US city to institute a tax on soda in 2014, though this measure did not include diet drinks. Similar measures previously failed in Philadelphia and in dozens of other cities around the country.