Friday Question of the Day – Soda Tax?

Photo by PoPville flickr user gc-dc

I know we’ve been talking a lot about taxes lately but given the budget it looks like a lot of ideas are gonna be debated. I just received an email about a group called Support the D.C. Healthy Schools Act. They say:

The Healthy Schools Act is a landmark bill that will:

* substantially improve health, wellness, and nutrition in our schools
* raise the nutritional standards and improve the quality of school meals
* bring more fresh, local fruits and vegetables to schools
* triple the amount of and vegetables to schools
* triple the amount of physical and health education by adopting national standards
* create school gardens and support other environmental initiatives
* expand school-based health and wellness programs

The proposed Healthy Schools Revenue Act would fund this initiative by:

* adding a one-cent-per-ounce tax to sugar-sweetened beverages to fight obesity
* the tax WOULD NOT include diet soda, non-caloric beverages, juices, milk, and water
* the soda tax would be imposed on distributors – NOT our small, local businesses. It would not apply to concentrated syrup, which is primarily sold to restaurants and bars

Apparently there is some serious lobbying against this act. Given the fact that obesity is such a problem in DC’s schools (and the budget deficit) do you support a soda tax?

143 Comment

  • I had a robocall tonight from the soda and soft-drink crowd painting this as an outrageous tax on the family food bill. Not one word about health, wellness, or nutrition.

  • Isnt Diet Soda just as bad? Less Calories but arent the chemicals bad for health?

    • Agreed, considering both the chemicals and how drinking diet soda actually encourages obesity not discourages it. . If the tax is to encourage healthy drinking the tax on diet sodas should be twice that of regular sodas.

    • I clicked in to this specifically to say the same thing. Seconded.

    • Hmm. I’d need to double check my facts, but I don’t believe diet soda increases risks of obesity any. I mean the whole problem with sugary drinks is the empty calories and the high glycemic index, right?

      On the other hand, the chemicals in diet soda do seem to cause cancer yadda yadda yadda, so they’re totally still bad for you.

      Still, I say step in the right direction. Tax the shit out of ’em!

      • ah

        There are some studies that suggest diet sodas cause the body to hunger for sugary foods so one then goes and eats as well.

    • No it’s not just as bad. The scientific question of whether artificial sweeteners have adverse effects has been answered and the answer is no. They have all been exhaustively studied and are 100% approved by the FDA and every other food safety authority.

      Basically the concerns about sweeteners come from non-scientists; scientists have finished reviewing the issue.

  • Two days ago, at Safeway, there was a guy asking people to sign a petition to oppose the tax. He looked at me but didn’t approach me, because he surely knew what I thought about the issue: I say, tax the shit out of soda…..make it 10 or 20 cents, I say.

    • The same guy approached me. When I told him I supported the bill and asked why he opposed it he said he wasn’t willing to discuss the issue because “discussing an issue on the street shows no class.” Interesting.

  • If a soda tax is going to seriously impact your family’s food bill, you are buying the wrong foods for your family.

    Please tax it!

  • Drink soda or not, under no circumstance should anyone stand for this. Any time a city or state needs money they will find something else to tax. Get spending under control and stop taxing us to death. This is all about the budget deficit.

    • I agree. It is also increasing spending at the same time, so it would have to create more revenue than it spends on this. (Besides, I wonder how much soda will be purchased in MD or VA, reducing potential revenue…)

      This tax could have been better delivered, in my opinion. We are in a recession, and this is an increase in spending (even if it is more than covered by soda tax revenue). One sort of increases in spending is investment, and investing in the district’s health could have been the argument made, in light of the recent healthcare bill.

      I also what class/racial divides are on this issue, and in particular, I wonder what it was about Caballero’s “look” that made the anti-tax guy not approach him.

      You know, I’m all for fruits and vegetables, even organic ones (I can barely afford regular fruits and veggies). I’m also for a certain level of ‘sin taxing’, but this proposal is out of control, in terms of scale and perspective. What was the council thinking? Are they just products of DC public schools?

      • I live in DC but I’d travel to Virginia (either by fare-hiked Metro or high price gas) for soda?

      • Umm…No one’s BANNING soda. It’s a one-cent-per-ounce tax hike. A can of soda is going to cost you 12 cents more – OH MY GOD. If you think that’s reason enough for you to go however many more miles to another state and think you’re saving money, then fine. You deserve to waste your time and money doing that.

        Groceries in DC aren’t even taxed as they are in other states. Now people are up in arms for singling out ONE item on the grocery list. Complain about something worthwhile.

        • On a 1.50 2 Litre bottle in a grocery store, the tax will be 68 cents… thats a bit much.

        • No kidding! So much better than my hometown (Nashville), where everything, including food and medicine, is taxed between 8.25% and 9.75%. A 20-cent tax on a bottle of soda is hardly crippling if you’re drinking soda in reasonable amounts. Water is so much cheaper and healthier in the long run, sin tax or not.

        • You totally missed the point,it is not the twelve additional cents on a freaking can of soda, or a five cents per bag charge for a receptacle carry your store bought items in. It is the fact that the taxes and fees beingbeing heaped upon the citizenry of this city is truly getting out of hand. The citizens of this city are not even given a choice to vote yes, or no to the mulitude of fees and taxes that are being forced upon them by the City Council and local business entities such as WASA and Pepco.

  • How about we tax the “sinful’ foods that yuppies eat, e.g. frozen yogurt?

    Besides, would the money would be spent well (no corruption, etc.)? Do we want the DC government to be our nanny?

    Isn’t the school lunch program a federally funded initiative?

    Honestly, this sounds like a money grab by the DC Council. For me, the concurrent presence of a gazillion other tax proposals at the same time reinforces this.

    • I do not know that last time I saw “yuppies” eating frozen yogurt. Maybe you should not get you info from some place other than Seinfeld re-runs.

      • Come on- don’t retreat into denial. “Fro-yo” places are as much of a sign of genrification as cafes painted hipster (spanish olive-esque) green, saturated orange or brick red, rising rental and house prices,organic (read ‘expensive’ food), restaurants with shi-shi one word names, etc. [Please, don’t pretend to not know what I am talking about, anyone…]

        heck, I do know that when a new fro-yo place opens up, people on this blog get all wet! 😉

        No value judgements here, just teasing yuppies a little, as well as implying that there is a chance that this tax just might be regressive…

        Maybe you’re not yuppie enough

        You know, I would almost be yuppie if it weren’t for my background, income, and my tastes…I mean, I DO read this blog- don’t I get any yuppie points for that?

        Can they be like those paw print points they used to have at the bottom of a Slush Puppie cup 😉

        • Dude, really? You’re asking for a frozen yogurt tax instead of a soda tax, because only “rich” (or yuppies) people eat frozen yogurt? I like frozen yogurt because it tastes good, and it’s healthier than ice cream (think about it…yogurt, that is just frozen, maybe with some fruit on top). I liked soda as a kid, because it was full of caffeine and sugar and made me feel like I was flying. Soda is making children obese and unhealthy, and adding a tax on the distributors might just decrease youth soda consumption–WIN WIN for everybody. I’d rather have my kid eat frozen yogurt than soda.

          • NO, it was not a serious tax proposal!

            it was just a dig at all the well-meaning wealthy folk who think they know better and have the right to engineer the lives of others.

            seriously, people…

          • I think that you should read about what a lot frozen yogurts contain. The flavorings and amounts of sugar that are added sure do seem to make frozen yogurts a candidate for a sin tax.

        • Unfortunatly you must not have seen the demographic that goes to the Fro-Zen-Yo on F Street downtown. It’s all colors, all shapes, all ages, EVERYONE loves that stuff, so yuppie joke FAIL!

          • It was a lighthearted joke that was meant to get at a larger point.

            I’m sorry you did not get the overall gist of my comments or the joke, and feel to judge me in such a trite, snarky way.

            But this, alas, is how the internet works. Everyone needs to try to correct one another. Good day.

  • Tax soda, but make it a flat 20 cents (just pick one) per container (or box). No reason to make it escalating per ounce. For a 12 pack you’d be paying an extra $1.44… thats a bit ridiculous.

    I’m all for the tax, but its implemented in the wrong way. For instance, a family with 2 teenage kids buys soda. Telling them they’re “buying the wrong thing” is just wrong… they’re allowed to buy soda and its not even irresponsible in small quantities… however, they’re required to buy more than the single person who’s buying the same proportion… but this family is forced to pay 4 times as much. This is especially true when you consider a 2L vs a 20 oz or something like that.

    A moderate flat tax on the soda is the way to go.

    • actually I fully support support the tax per ounce – just like the hated bag tax, it really lets you know exactly how much you’re consuming. If the purpose is to encourage healthy consumption, wouldn’t taxing 8oz of the stuff with exactly the same tax as consuming 64oz of the stuff kind of defeat the purpose? Does anybody really need to consume 64 oz of the stuff?

  • um, same though process behind taxing smokes and booze.

    a GOOD ONE

  • I’m for it. Even if it all goes to waste if it decrease consumption I say it’s worth it.

  • Tax Fro-Yo!

    It is fattening yuppies all over the district! We have to stop them from killing themselves slowly through gluttony! They can’t control themselves and can’t make their own decisions, so we will tax this sin until they just stop sinning!


  • Take a look at the statement by the director of the Pan American Health Organization (branch of the World Health Organization for the Americas)about this. It is very interesting. Just go to and you’ll see the headline.

    • She must have some hidden agenda. She probably is a lobbyist for the Healthy Eating industry coalition and gets kickbacks from farmers markets.

      • Hmmm…. you mean, a 30 cent discount per pound of tomatoes? Not bad for a nice gazpacho. Tempting.

  • some people are just too stupid to think and do things that harm them and eventually cost the society a lot of money. These things include smoking, consuming too much junk/fried food and soda, driving SUV and generally not being healthy… Until these people educate themselves of the harm they’re causing to themselves and the society and stop it we have every right to tax stupidity.

    • Some people are just too stupid to think that “educating” other people is going to stop the harmful behavior.

      It’s not that people are “just too stupid to think.” This in itself is an insensitive and oversimplified (yet all too common) view of the issue. Knowledge is not the problem. Thanks to our overwhelming emphasis on obesity prevention these past few years, people get it. They know sodas aren’t good for you. Anybody can tell you that cutting back on soda is healthier.

      People drink them anyway, though, and it’s not because they’re “stupid” or “want to cause society money.” It’s because the forces that are driving them to drink soda are much greater than the individual “choice” that goes into it. Let’s talk about the advertising, the value meals, and limited choices at restaurants. Let’s talk about soda being essential to almost every social gathering (when’s the last time you went to a party where there wasn’t a soda?). Let’s talk about the economic factors that prohibit families from buying healthier drinks, or at least persuade them that sodas help them get “more for their money.” I could go on, but the point is that when an unhealthy habit becomes part of our social fabric, it is beyond the level of individual “stupidity.” To pretend that it isn’t is a rather short-sighted and ultimately unhelpful assumption. Who are we benefiting by blaming the victim?

      Taxes can be good in the sense that they can provide economic incentive to stop a behavior, but, when the reason is simply “people are too stupid to know better” I think we are supporting it for the wrong reasons.

      • The tax is a disincentive to buy sugary soda. You note that some of the forces driving increased consumption, so what’s wrong with a force to discourage that? I agree that a tax isn’t the best way to handle this, and that it’s not fair to call people who drink too much soda (most people) stupid, but what’s a better solution to fix the problem?

        • ah

          Why is soda a bigger problem than Big Macs, Z-Burgers, football sized burritos, fried chicken, butter-laden hand-formed ravioli, and so forth?

          • Ok, so big macs are bad for you, no question. But they do at LEAST provide some sustenance to the body, some energy to move etc. A Sprite, for example, basically is a 150 calories or so which gets processed by the body really quickly, too quickly for you to use it unless (and possibly even if) you’re running a marathon. It just basically gets tacked onto the fat count automatically.

            That’s vaguely the difference. You’re right though, fried chicken and all that is also not good for you, but it’s a little less bad because it takes your body a little while to break down.

        • well the whole point of the tax is to pay for healthier food in schools, teaching kids to eat better, and mainly, curbing their addiction to sugar.
          So that. That should help.

      • Very good explanation, Laura 🙂 Thanks for posting it.

  • I strongly encourage everyone that thinks this is a good idea to reduce hunger, fight obesity and create healthy schools in the District to please sign the petition at:

    The American Beverage Association, the front group of Coke, Pepsico, and Dr. Pepper-Snapple, is behind a $5.4 million dollar glitzy ad campaign to kill the D.C. Healthy Schools Act. We need to stand up for our children, our health and our community and support this groundbreaking effort.

    • ah

      Why not put a 1% sales tax on all food sales instead? Plenty of funding for healthy schools that way, without the big-brotheresque nanny tax?

  • PoP, I heard that the “big soda” lobby is pumping a lot of money into ads and backroom deals. I know you’re not a real journalist (he he) but can you find out more about this?
    How can we voice our support to the council?

  • This is clear as day, pure B.S.

    Just as this is from the our nation’s highest law enforcement officer:

  • I love soda and booze, but I think we should tax the hell out of both.

    • +1

      My only issue is: How can a Council support both a soda tax and the yoga/gym membership tax? I’m all for the soda tax, but the idea of taxing people for taking care of themselves while also taxing the people who don’t is completely absurd and hypocritical.

      • I think this is a really interesting question. On one hand it is completely counter-intuitive and a false economy to tax gym membership, given the amount of money we are spending to encourage healthy living, fight obesity etc.

        But, we shouldn’t assume that expenses like yoga classes or gym membership are absolutely NECESSARY for health living. They certainly facilitate it, but could be considered a luxury for those who don’t wish to run in the park or practice yoga at home through a DVD.

        I don’t mean to bash gym goers at all (most of them are bigger than me, for starters!) but I do think you could make a strong case that a membership of Mint Gym (18th and Florida) is a luxury and that those who can afford the fees are reasonable targets for a tax.

        Taxes can be used to encourage/discourage certain behaviors. But some taxes ought to be directed at those who can best afford them, or in instances of price inelasticity.

        • “I don’t mean to bash gym goers at all (most of them are bigger than me, for starters!) but I do think you could make a strong case that a membership of Mint Gym (18th and Florida) is a luxury and that those who can afford the fees are reasonable targets for a tax.

          Taxes can be used to encourage/discourage certain behaviors. But some taxes ought to be directed at those who can best afford them, or in instances of price inelasticity.”

          Progressive taxation is fine, but do it through income taxes. Taxing certain things (soda or gym memberships, e.g.) should be done only when we want to discourage those things. It makes no sense to tax gym/yoga memberships if the goal is just to tax rich people. You know what is the best indicator of who is rich? Their income. Tax that, and skip the backdoor method of going after the desirable behaviors in which they engage, just because you’re trying to be sly and not admit that you want to stick it to rich people.

      • Hmm… Good point!

      • gym tax idea is dead.

  • This is nonsensical. The talk about being a tax on distrubitors and not on “small businesses” is a blatant lie. If you tax the distributors they are going to simply raise the price and that price will be paid by the small businesses first and the consumer second. Nobody is going to simply let this money slip out of their margin.

    Also, I’ve yet to be shown what’s so intrinsically great about “small businesses.”

    captcha – “about unions”
    Don’t even get me started.

    • houseintherear

      “Also, I’ve yet to be shown what’s so intrinsically great about ‘small businesses.'”

      You’re kidding, right?

      • Not in the slightest. Just because a business has a small number of employees does not mean that it is any better (or worse) than a company with many employees.

        • houseintherear

          Ah true. I do wish our city was blanketed in Olive Gardens and Starbucks. THAT would be the beautiful life.

          • houseintherear

            Now that I think about it, for someone seemingly against unionizing, I’d think you would have the opposite opinion.

        • When was the last time you saw a Cisco supported PoP Warner football team or Brownie troop?

          Big business is important from a GDP perspective, but small businesses pay tons more money into the local economy….unless by local economy you mean Congressional PAC’s in which case large businesses still dominate.

  • This is nonsense.

    What’s completely absurd and troubling is the tax itself and more importantly the meddlesome and collectivist ideology that fosters it ?

    Do we elect officials to be the sugar police or our food police ?
    Why should they be the arbiters of all our lives ?

    Why do elected officials somehow always know better what’s good for citizens and what is not. Just who are they to decide others’ free choices ?

    We need to stop modifying free citizens’ behavior and our free choices with a myriad of taxes for this, that, and what is becoming everything under the sun.

    While excessive consumption of sugar may not be healthy for some, what is far less healthy and divisive is this excessive appetite of a public sector increasingly governing our lives beyond reason.

    This tax may seem petty to some, but is emblematic of the incremental growth of federal, state and local government; a public sector that continues to grow unsustainably and far beyond reason and original intent, while the private sector that provides for everything diminishes.

    We are entering a new zeitgeist — a transcendent mood and way of thinking that defines a period of history where personal freedom and individual achievement are subjugated and give way to collective well being, collective thinking, socialist ideals with spread the misery elitist central planners, and a life by government ration.

    Abraham Lincoln taught us that government exists to do only what citizens cannot do for themselves.

    • 64% of our population is overweight or obese, with 26.6% being obese in 2007. That’s up from 19.4% in 1997. Even with a static population growth (not true), that’s a 37% increase in the number of obese people in just one decade.

      Abraham Lincoln taught us that government exists to do only what citizens cannot do for themselves. Clearly, a larger percentage of American citizens are incapable of making healthy food choices.

      We tax luxury (boats, travel, cars) and we tax stupidity (tobacco, liquor). Why is this any different?

      • +1… I’d add that soda is already artificially inexpensive due to massive farm subsidies that make corn syrup so damn cheap. Since the DC council can’t repeal farm subsidies, at least the tax brings soda’s back closer to being in line with their actual costs… If you really factored in the costs of their other negative externalities in terms of chronic health problems the tax should probably be much higher.

  • I think the DC goverment should tax skinny tight pants. Why are so many males in DC wearing tight skinny pants?

    • Yes. Someday they will regret being in photos wearing said skinny pants.

      Like those childhood pictures with Hammer/chef/zubaz pants. Yowch!

  • I am against it, there is no need for this at all. If people want to drink soda, it is their right and it should not be taxed. Everything is getting out of hand. I do not think that soda should be in schools because it is not something we should promote, just like smoking. However, I do enjoy both, but I wouldn’t have a smoke or a Coke to a 13 year old.

  • Booze and cigs are heavily taxed but that hasn’t made people stop smoking at bar patios over mojitos and bloody marys. So is the gas in the car that may have been used to drive to the bar. Just because something is heavily taxed doesn’t mean people will stop doing or using it. Eating out has a 10% tax, then add the 15-20% tip if there is waitstaff, we should have stopped going out to eat or picking up take out for lunch a long time ago.
    Have taxes made you give up smoking at all? Does the tax on your order for a Subway sandwich made you pack a lunch instead or just not bother eating lunch and go jogging instead? Booze taxes made you give up cosmos (unless at open bar) and drink water instead? Why would taxing vices suddenly make one virtuous?
    If you want people to eat healther, make healthy food cheaper. Some meat is cheaper than a lot of veggies in the produce aisle. Have the Dept of Ag and Congress subsidize brussle sprouts and salad instead of corn.
    Instead you’re encouraging folks to buy in bulk when they go to Wal-mart out in PG County.

    • Taxing vices isn’t supposed to make you virtuous, it’s supposed to make people who take part in those vices help bear the cost of the consequences in some way. Still, the high taxes on cigarettes are certainly a factor in the decision to quit for some people.

      • Nah, self righteous non-smokers and treating smokers like scum helps more.
        I didn’t know the tax money from my vodka purchases helps bear the cost of what exactly? Wouldn’t it go into a general fund that pays for stuff that has no relation to whether I buy vodka, port or tequila.

  • Tax soda, but NO MORE government programs. Use the revenue to pay down our existing debts or obligations.

    DC cannot afford new government programs.

    • DC government isn’t in debt at all, but has over $500 million socked away in a rainy day account. The proceeds from this tax would go to close the budget deficit for FY11 and beyond, thereby allowing the city to stay flush and preserve its good credit rating. There are a number of council members who recognize the need to trim spending, so some programs will face cutbacks. But one way of generating additional tax revenue would be for the Mayor and Council to actively promote the District as a location for “green” manufacturing. This would create good jobs, broaden the tax base, and improve our overall quality of life.

  • I don’t drink sodas so this tax won’t affect me or my family; however, this is another blatant money grab by the DC government. This is one of the reasons why my family and friends who don’t live in the city wonder why I choose to live here. Our government is a joke and they should tighten the purse strings like most who live here. Can’t we just reduce spending and services like average district residents have?

  • Tax it. Chips ‘n shit, too.

  • Has everyone seen the misleading advertisement on the back of the Express? My fear is people will actually believe the message they’re pitching. Soda should be taxed, period. Have you seen how fat we’re getting as a country? Higher taxes has worked with cigarettes.

  • Tax it! Tax it! Tax it!

  • I support taxing soda on it’s merits, but I also know that the current city council has done nothing to rein in their giveaways to “organizations” for HHS that do nothing other than pay salaries to individuals. So really the money is just going into the general fund and its too easy to just funnel money from one project to another through agency heads without public comment or review.

    it’s pretty obnoxious that Fenty was proposing to use the money from the bag tax for street sweeping. Are you kidding me? I’m going to have to hold my nose when I vote /against/ Gray this year.

    And then there’s Mendelson giving away salary increases to city employees when there are tons of people out of work and not enough money as it is. I guess it’s not just wall street that’s immune to the economy.

  • I’m a thousand percent in favor of this.

  • Tax it and for all those whining about too many taxes, please read the facts: Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman’s presidency.

    • Not everyone who’s anti tax right now, believes in zero taxes. There are a lot of people who look at how the city manages the revenues it already brings in, and sees a hobo with a drinking problem. Do you don’t enable addicts.

      We have more than enough money /right now/ to pay for infrastructure improvements, but we still have crappy sidewalks, crappy streets, lead water lines, deteriorating power infrastructure, crumbling schools, and youth offenders that the city can’t even keep track of. Then we have people saying they need jobs. So why isn’t the money going towards these goals?

  • You have got to be kidding me. I am sick and tired of being nickel and dimed because the DC Government is seemingly dedicated entirely to social welfare programs. I am sick of it. Seriously, you want a new program and can’t afford to pay for it? Cut something else – there are plenty to choose from. Cheh and her ilk should be voted out of office for wasting time during this economy on this crap. You want to help fat kids because their families can’t help them on their own, fine. Prioritize – stop dreaming up new ways to make us pay for it.

    • I agree with you.

      I think DC needs to cut spending, not increase taxes.

      DC gets most of its money from property taxes, and housing prices have skyrocketed in recent years. Therefore, property tax has skyrocketed in recent years. But on the other hand, I don’t think DC services have. And moreover, they shouldn’t.

      DC doesn’t need more money. It has boatloads of it.

      I would only support this tax if it means that taxes are decreased elsewhere.

  • I’m not a yuppy and I’m a middle class federal worker. I can’t afford anymore taxes. I’m already living in a closet and in a neighborhood that I “settled” for. What’s next? Your going to tax air? Most of the people who comment on blogs are probably the type of residents this city wants. However, taxing us to death is exactly what drives most of us away across the border into Viriginia and Maryland. Why put up with the hassle and cost of living in the city when you can live nearby and keep more money in your pocket. It’s kind of funny and very telling when my friends who own nice homes across the border and make just as much as I do can afford to do more things in the city than I can and I live here.

  • Tax it! Naysayers sound like they’ve been paid off by soda companies!

  • Tax the hell out of it!

  • If we’re going to do it, how about taxing the amount of sugar per drink, rather than the number of ounces? That would encourage companies to make less-sugary (but still naturally-sweetened) drinks. If Coke made a half-sugar Coke, it would be about 72 cents cheaper per 12-pack of cans. A reasonable nudge for producers and consumers.

  • Have you heard of the DC woman who is on a Diet..?

    She orders a meal at McDonalds, with a double cheese burger, large fries, a McFlurry and a large DIET Coke

  • PoP,

    I think this topic is worthy of a reader voter poll.

  • As a revenue-generating measure, I really don’t like this. If we need more money, just pass a special option local sales tax or raise property taxes or income taxes.

    As a public health initiative, though, I love this idea. For all those who say “who are we to tell people what they can’t do,” I call BS. There’s nothing of nutritional value in soda — we know that — and guess what: a LOT of people in this town don’t know that they shouldn’t be pumping their kids full of soda and Kool-aid. There’s nothing that makes me want to scream more than checking out at the grocery store behind some mother with three small kids in her cart, paying with her WIC vouchers, and buying literally gallons of soda and faux-juice drinks. If taxing it gets fewer people to consume it, then go for it. We’ll see the returns in improved public health. (And yes, I realize we probably should also tax caffeine, Splenda, diet sodas, and most processed foods on this same logic, but you’ve got to start somewhere.)

    • I’m certain that WIC cannot be used to purchase non-juice beverages, but that does free up money to spend on crap like soda. I’m on the fence about the fiscal implications of the tax, but 100% on the “Do it!” side for the social dis-incentive to consume soda. However, I would more love to see this pass just as a big “[email protected] you!” to the soda lobby. And on top of that let’s pass a can and bottle deposit to rub it in more.

  • PaschTag

    Soda is great. This tax will not reduce consumption of soda at bit. This is just another example of the moralizing of a product that people really enjoy and an excuse to create revenue. It might be a small cost and perhaps there will be benefits of the program created but most likely it will just cost consumers more and benefit none. Obesity rates will not be effected. The only winners will be politicians that can tout their win against evil corporations that make too much money at expense of children’s health. There are real problems in the city, soda is not one of them. Tax frozen yogurt, at least all the patrons will welcome the tax because they believe they are making a difference in the live of the ignorant yet noble poor that don’t know any better.

    • I think you overreached there at the end.

      This tax is not enough money to discourage consumption, so it will have no benefit on lowering obesity rates. It’s a way to fund school lunch programs… assuming the money won’t get siphoned from the general fund. Which is doubtful.

      However, drinking soda in place of water could add 500 calories per day to your diet. That’s a lot of calories that you aren’t going to burn off. So it is a valid health problem, but it’s a PR problem. The city could also dig up all the lead lines that supply the drinking water to the city, but that’s another issue.

      Taxing Fro-Yo doesn’t have the volume to cover the cost of enforcement.

      • No one was serious about taxing “fro yo”, or at least I (the one who jokingly suggested it) wasn’t. I used it as a humorous device in one of my criticisms of the tax.

        I think we need some commenters from the DCist on this site…someone who will crack a joke every now and again.

        I seriously don’t think this will pass, at least in its current form – one cent per ounce. Also, the increases in spending should be addressed.

        I appreciate all the good intentions behind this, but there are so many flaws with this initiative.

      • PaschTag

        I hope the sarcasm was caught. I thought it was pretty obvious. I don’t really want a fro-yo tax. Though it is a better way to target the people that think that taxing vice is a good thing and are happy to pay a little more. In general people need to stop thinking that they know what’s better for others. They don’t and even it they do, it’s not your problem to fix.

    • You’ve missed the point, Pops. The tax will fund school programs, so even if it doesn’t reduce soda consumption, the kids will benefit from healthier lunches. Google the effects on a child of having healthy food in their system: they are more focused and generally do better in school. Let’s not forget that our school system is the second worst in the country, and could use all the help it can get. Tax soda.

  • Casual read of it, yes. Actual analysis of it, no.

    Here is the link to the bureau of economic analysis site: p?SelectedTable=58&ViewSeries=NO&Java=no &Request3Place=N&3Place=N&FromView=Y ES&Freq=Year&FirstYear=1950&LastYear =2009&3Place=N&Update=Update&JavaBox =no#Mid

    Change in personal disposable income between 2008 and 2009 = negative $212 billion
    Change in government transfer receipts = positive $229 billion

    Tax receipts as a percentage of disposable income in 2008 = 11.7% (about average over the last 50 years)
    Tax receipts as a percentage of disposable income in 2009 = 9.17% (in 1950 it was 8.26%)

    And so I would attribute the 2009 phenomenon to the tax treatment of government transfer receipts (social security, unemployment benefits, etc.). All in all, the wealthy paid less tax because there incomes went down dramatically (capital losses as opposed to capital gains) and the lower brackets paid less tax because the source of their income changed (unemployment) and earned income credits increased.

    Obviously the USA today has an agenda, but let’s continue to criticize people who want limited and responsible government. I mean, Greece is so much better off right now. Look what happened to the neighborhood the last time we had Riots…

    • that was supposed to be a response to the usa today article and the comment about complaining about more taxes. My apologies for my inability to decipher the captcha’s.

    • Yes, because taxing soda to support school iniatives is comparable to Greece’s policy of paying public employees for 14 (yes, fourteen) months of work each year.

      • Whoa bro, I was refuting the usa today article and the claim that we are somehow not overtaxed. I actually don’t think the tax is a bad idea, but why would you create the tax and still permit the use of food stamps to purchase soda. Isn’t that just creating more bureaucracy, more of the same bureaucracy that creates excuses for having insufficient funding to promote health and wellness in the schools?

        How many corner stores do you think collect the bag tax? How many do you think report the bag tax? How many audits of the bag tax do we do? The same argument can be made for the soda tax. It’s not Giant and Safeway that will have issue collecting and processing, its the corner stores? So now we are going to create a new enforcement division, that will do what? Cost money now and be entitled to a pension later. Yes, 14 months of work and pensions at 53, I get it. This is about expanding the bureaucracy.

  • Very much in support of…but only on drinks that contain High Fructose Corn Syrup. While my people call it maize, that chemically engineered sweetner will fucking kill you.

  • Make soda free and put it in baby bottles! Fatten ’em up fast and young so they all die before procreating. Leave a better world for the skinny and virtuous.

  • Absolutely great idea! It’s great that they excluded diet soda too. Maybe this will actually mean that more restaurants will offer diet sodas instead of the usual array of 8 full calorie sodas and then the one token diet cola.

    For people who say that a tax of a few cents doesn’t affect demand, just look at what happened to paper bags.

    Taxes reduce demand. Econ101. Basic stuff. This means the money raised from this tax will be able to be used for good purposes and people will be given a good reason to drink diet soda or other beverages instead of the unnecessary calories in regular soda.

    • *plastic bags, I mean

      captcha: “in kristen” bow chica bow wow

    • Restricting the use of food stamps to only purchase healthy foods would reduce demand also, but oddly enough we don’t do that. For some reason you can purchase foods with transfats and/or sodas, I wonder why?

  • clevelanddave

    No way! It is an attempt to open the door to taxing everything that is unhealthy but legal. Start with soda. Then candy. Then anything with sugar. Then anything with white bleached flour. Sugar prices are already too high as there is a tariff on imported sugar that is keeping uncompetitive sugar producers in Florida in business. If you want $$$ for healthy school programs, redirect the $$$ from the tariff to those programs instead of going into the Treasury general fund.

    • That’s what the city council said they ARE going to do with the money.

      Obviously, “Your Results May Vary” applies to anything the city council does.

  • We should add a penny to the vending machine cost of soda, so that it would cost $1.01 or $1.26 a pop or whatever, while non-sugary drinks are $1.00 or $1.25, etc.

    That need for extra change would be a disincentive to buying sugary drinks.

  • Tax it. Especially if it results in less garbage on the streets. Better still, use the proceeds to pay for trash cans on the corner of every block in the city. The litter issue is driving me crazy right now.

    • We HAVE trash cans on every corner here around CH metro/Target and there is still trash all over the street.

  • One word: Stevia. It will change your life.

    • Stevia, in mild form, is good for taking the edge off of bitterness. Anything stronger and it has a metallic after taste.

      • My family uses the purified stuff in significant quantities and can’t detect any aftertaste. NuStevia brand in powder form, in particular. It’s awesome for coffee, lemonade, mixed drinks, pretty much anything liquid.

  • Putting aside the resentment of financially tough times and having a new tax, I think it is a great idea.

    Soft drinks don’t have any positive effects.

    Soft drinks are making people obese, soft drinks contribute to osteoporosis, soft drinks contribute to tooth decay and they displace consumption of water as well as healthier snacks.

    If someone ends up drinking less soda as a result of this tax they will end up better off. If they do not, society will get back a little bit of the bill that sodas cost.

  • I had a similar interaction with a bill opponent at the CH Giant last week. She was rather annoyed that I favored the tax.

  • Let just put a coin jar at the end of every grocery line and label it “Programs white people use to fix black people.” I’m sure we can raise more money.

  • I’d assume this tax will cover desingner soft drinks like Izze and Reeds Ginger Beer as much as Mountain Dew? That may be an argument for a % tax rather than flat $.01/oz, since the Izzy will cost twice as much as the Mountain Dew for nearly the same amount of sugar (albeit fructose and/or cane sugar vs. HFC). Personally I’d almost prefer an HFC consideration — Coke makes a superior product in Mexico (using cane sugar) than it does for th the US market.

    It’s also lame that companies like Izze are making “fortified” products to get into the school vending racket with an overtly sweet product by pumping it with vitamins.

    But if the concern is obesity, shouldn’t calories be the main consideration

  • I think the tax is really innovative. The extra funding for school lunches will surely help and the tax will help disincentivize consuming a product that has zero nutritional value and adverse effects on health.

  • Considering the Council chambers have been filled with corporate soda lobbyists, newspapers on the street teeming with negative, full-page color ads, and the airwaves packed with expensive radio spots, one thing has been supremely clear: the Supersized Soda Lobby will dedicate all of its vast resources toward killing this groundbreaking public health initiative.

    But their pricey ad campaign isn’t buying public support. More than 70% of likely District voters say they stand behind the penny-per-ounce idea. Add that to organizations like the Capital Area Food Bank, the Pan-American Health Organization/World Health Organization, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Surfrider Foundation-DC Chapter, and many others who have all said the same. As one unified voice, we are demonstrating our support to fully fund the D.C. Healthy Schools Act and simultaneously provide an incentive for both adults and children to reduce their consumption of nutrient-poor, calorie-rich drinks.

    With the nation’s eyes on the District — it’s imperative that we set an example in our recipe for creating healthy schools and healthy communities.

  • The tax won’t really affect me, as I’ve already taken basically all my grocery shopping over to Virginia to get around the DC bag tax.

  • Taxes are out of control everywhere. Costs for everything are passed on to consumers/taxpayers at every turn. If you look at how much of your income goes to taxes, on top of paying for goods and services you need to make it through life these days, you’d be outraged, and then they turn around and tell you to “Save money”, The nerve. We pay 5 cents for plastic bags for crying out loud! We’re taxed on groceries, gas, at the DMV, parking tickets, clothes, income tax, property tax, cigarettes, and alcohol. Sure government has to function, but that’s a lot of money, its being “lost” somewhere. The DC government needs more transparency. Sow they want to raise the tax on sodas… Sodas are unhealthy, of course, but isn’t it the FDA’s job to put pressure on them to make their drinks healthier on current budgets? The story is “We want you to be healthy by cutting down on sodas because we’ll raise the price, but if you die, we’ve made a lot of money so that’s just as good”

    Instead they seek to tax buyers, even of diet sodas why? Because it makes up for shoddy government that was careless with budget spending. Meanwhile our roads are horrible, there is poor trash collection, and teachers are fired, while you’re getting a parking ticket outside. What am I paying taxes for again? I don’t see it.

  • Winternett–all that tax money going to the DC government isn’t being “lost”. Much of it is being funnelled back into the local economy thru clothing spending sprees by the bureaucrats with the city credit cards, and other various scams they dream up while not doing their jobs.

    Some of it probably ends up in the hands of the neighborhood corner drug merchant (and i’m not referring to CVS).

  • It’s obvious from the 100+ posts about this subject that people have very strong feelings about this issue. I only hope that we show our feelings not only through posting on blogs, but also through calling our representatives on the D.C. City Council to make our voices heard.

  • tax soda – tax it tax it tax it! this is a no brainer. my only issue with this proposal is that the tax excludes diet soda – ALL soda should be taxed.

  • If you wanna tax something that does harm…tax the churches.

  • The KFC and the Double Cheese burgers that the soda comes with are much more harmful than the soda. That is what should be taxed.

    Other things that can be done to ensure a healthier population is to tax the high sodium containing frozen food.

    Taxing Soda will not help the kids. It may help the school system but it will not reduce obesity.

  • Taxing “Sin Foods” should cover all fatty foods. This not only means soda, but fro-yo, gelato, and any of the “food” provided at Union Station.

    However, can we buy wireless credit-card / Food-stamp-card machines for farmers markets so that.. cashless individuals can buy fruit & vegs at farmers markets?

  • Thinking that sin taxes on soda will have any significant impact on obesity is naive. Furthermore the idea that taxing a distributor will not impact local small businesses is also naive. Taxes are a cost of doing business that is forwarded along to consumers and other end users.

  • This tax is so ingenious cause it would work in two ways. 1. the tax on soda might cause people to reconsider their choices in beverage options and maybe choose something healthier/ less sugary and fructose corn syrupy. 2. if they don’t, the money that is made from people who still drink non- diet soda goes to get better food in schools that will be free for all students. better physical education requirements, school gardens, and more money for health and nutrition initiatives. it’s a win- win situation. the healthy schools people don’t want to drive business away from soda because they would have no money for this Act.

    Economically speaking, why not pay a little more on soda and make upwards of 7 million dollars in a time when there’s no money around. and sure it’ll cost more money but the truth of the matter is, a disproportionate amount of the obesity epidemic lies in the lower classes. A lot of these people don’t have health insurance. There are many studies that link soda to diabetes and other health problems. Paying a soda tax is less expensive then diabetes. In the end, if people still want soda, they’re gonna buy it anyway so why not raise some money for a great cause.

  • Soda is good but it isn’t healthy. Let’s not even debate that anymore.

    DC has a real health problem we need something/anything to change that.

    Everyone wants change but then nobody supports change!

    That being said, I think the tax should be twice as much.

    ….and I love soda!

  • Aren’t these common sense things that the schools should be doing normally at no additional cost? Doesn’t the Federal Government already pay though reimbursement in the National School Lunch Program but, according to my research the District losses 11 mil. a year due to not collecting applications for reimbursement.

  • F**k off,
    You stupid dipshit, what’s next bottled water! Someone has to pay for those tens of thousands empty plastic bottles that clutter the city waste receptacles. It seems that morons like you fail to remember the past when the imbecils that govern the City Council caused a mass exodus of the city’s tax base paying citizens to local surburan communities.

  • I was remembering about this debate and thought that this information might be helpful/enlightening.

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