Philadelphia is about to become the second, and biggest, U.S. city to tax soda. Sources report that a new measure, which will tax customers 1.5 cents for every ounce of soda purchased, is virtually guaranteed to pass a final vote on June 16, positioning Philadelphia as the first major municipality to impose such a law.
According to Grub Street, the tax is especially notable as it will apply to diet soda as well as regular soda, ensuring that the financial burden of the measure will not disproportionately affect lower-income residents over middle- and upper-income Philadelphians. This is especially important because the tax is likely to add up quickly. While 1.5 cents may not seem like very much money, the overall financial toll of the law will amount to approximately 30 cents for a standard 20-ounce, bottle, and a full $2 for a 12-pack of soda.
However, despite the fact that Philadelphia is likely to become the biggest U.S. city to impose a soda tax, it is not the first to consider such a law. Several years ago, then New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a very public (and failed) campaign to tax soda, and Berkley, California currently taxes the sugary, carbonated beverages. Other cities considering a soda tax include San Francisco, Oakland, and Boulder.
For better or worse, due to the money and lobbying power of the soda industry, measures that resemble Philadelphia’s remain difficult to pass and implement. What sets the City of Brotherly Love aside, however, is the tactics their mayor, Jim Kenney, employed while advocating for the tax. Kenney advertised the measure “as a way to fund prekindergarten and fix up the city's rec centers and libraries, rather than positioning it as a Bloombergian nanny-state crusade against evil soda,” Grub Street reports.
No matter which way you choose to frame the issue, however, there is no question that Philadelphia’s new soda tax could set a precedent for other U.S. cities. We suggest that you pay close attention to the vote on June 16 and the soda industry’s subsequent response for insight into how your town or city might limit soda intake in coming years.