Soda tax not so sweet for Philly residents

By Megan Conte
March 23, 2010

Whether it’s from a can of Red Bull, a bottle of Starbucks frappuccino, or a 20-ounce  soda, caffeine is a way of life for many college students. But if you’re buying one of these drinks in Philadelphia, it could soon cost you up to $1.32 more due to the sweet-drink tax.

The sweet-drink tax would be two cents per ounce. This equates to 40 cents more on a 20-ounce bottle of soda. The tax would be on all sweet beverages, which includes soda, energy drinks, ice tea and even chocolate milk. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Mayor Michael Nutter named this tax, Healthy Philadelphia Initiative.  In a year, the city could raise $77 million in tax revenue.

A 8.4-ounce Red Bull drink would be $0.17 more, a 9.5-ounce of Starbucks frappuccino would be $0.19 cents more, a 16-ounce Nesquick chocolate milk would cost $0.32 cents more, and a two-liter bottle could cost up to $1.35 dollars more. This beverage tax would be the nation’s highest.

Already, 33 states charge tax on soft drinks, but they are not as expensive. New York, Massachusetts and California are all proposing a sweet-drink tax. In Chicago the tax adds four cents to a 20-ounce Coke, which makes the Coke $1.29.

Not only will this hurt the consumers of these products, but it may hurt the jobs in the market. With the reduction of sales, there may be a reduction of jobs, which will hurt the local and regional economy.

The tax would be collected with the city’s gross-receipts tax at the end of each year as a business tax. Many believe that this tax is to raise money. On the proposal, $57 million dollars would go toward a general fund in Philadelphia and the $20 million dollars would go to healthy eating and exercise programs, because one goal of this tax is to change the eating habits.

Health Commissioner Donald F.Schwarz states that a city resident drinks about a half liter of sweet beverages a day. “For the average individual in town, if this is passed on, we believe that we can make them healthier simply though substitution for healthier beverages,” Schwarz states.

This tax proposal will be part of the 2010-11 budget proposals. Mayor Nutter wants to “treat the city’s weight and wallet problems.”

I don’t agree with the city making this tax. This is a needless tax for the city right now. People who do not purchase sweet-drinks will also be affected by this tax, which is unfair. The low-income population may be affected if jobs are lost.

If the initative reaches its aims of making the city healthier, then I will support it. If the aim reaches schools, then I believe that it will be worth it. If students and children drink more water and less sweet drinks, then I think the tax works. Right now, I don’t believe that $0.40 cents will stop people from buying what they enjoy drinking.

Megan Conte

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