DC introduces new “soda tax”

New laws would impose a tax of 0.015 cents per ounce on sugary drinks like sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks.

If you live in DC and need that extra jolt from a Red Bull or Mountain Dew, you might pay quite a bit more to hit the counter when a newly introduced tax is passed.

Legislation before the DC Council would impose an excise duty of 0.015 cents per ounce on sugary beverages such as sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks. The price of a 12 pack of Coke would go over $ 2.

It’s called the Nutrition Equity Bill, and proponents claim it will discourage residents from buying sugary drinks and choosing healthier options, especially in low-income areas of northeast and southeast DC, where obesity and diabetes are diagnosed at high rates.

Councilor Mary Cheh, a sponsor of the bill, told WTOP, “This excise tax would be applied directly to the product. This makes it clear to the buyer that it is more expensive than it was. “

Cheh said she hopes the bill specifically targets the kids’ habits:

“We have a serious problem, especially with children who are overweight or obese, and the medical community says if they do, it is likely that they will remain overweight into adulthood with all sorts of medical problems. And the CDC has said that if you tried a single policy to fight childhood obesity, a soda tax would be that there is a direct link between the amount of soda kids drink and this whole weight gain issue. “

The bill stipulates that all homeless shelters in the district must offer more nutritious meals that meet the nutritional guidelines for Americans. Cheh said the proceeds from the new soda tax would fund this new initiative directly. In addition, grants are provided to support nutrition education, cooking classes, and gardens in family and transitional shelters.

In a press release on the bill, supporters point to similar measures in both Philadelphia and Berkley to reduce sugary beverages consumption.

A study conducted at the University of California at Berkeley after the city passed its soda tax found that residents reduced their consumption of soft drinks compared to comparable cities.

In 2019, a similar bill was narrowly rejected in the DC Council.

At the time, opponents said the tax would harm local grocery stores by encouraging shoppers to leave DC and shop in Maryland or Virginia. Opponents also claim that a consumption tax on sodas is regressive and would hit poorer residents disproportionately.

An analysis conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that while the Philadelphia soda tax reduced the amount of sugary beverages purchased in the city, it increased shopping opportunities outside of the city.

And while this study found that children who drank large amounts of soda decreased their consumption, “Overall, they” found “generally no demonstrable effects of the tax on children’s beverage consumption”.

A similar study conducted by the Carlson School at the University of Minnesota found that soft drink consumption decreased by 22%, but found no “significant reduction in calorie or sugar intake.”

Six members of the DC Council sponsored the bill, which means that only one other member would have to vote yes to pass the bill.

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