Weigh In: Is the City’s Proposed Tax on Sugary Drinks Sweet or Sour?


If you were watching the morning news, you’ve heard it by now: Mayor Nutter is announcing a plan today that proposes taxing sugary beverages to help fill the city’s budget holes — and also help us trim down in the process. Labeled as the Healthy Philadelphia Initiative, starting in January 2011, everything from soda and iced tea to sports drinks and chocolate milk will run an additional two cents per ounce, 32 times Pennsylvania’s state beer tax — easily doubling the price of many sweet beverages.

The tax is set to rake in a pretty hefty sum — over $77 million for the city each year. Though $20 million of it will be earmarked for the creation of new health-minded programs for the city and the rest will keep more government jobs from being slashed, it’s still a hard amount to swallow — especially when you realize that you could soon be paying for a six-pack of soda what you pay for a six-pack of beer.

Keep in mind, though, that, as of 2008, 57 percent of children and 64 percent of adults in Philadelphia were overweight or obese, and childhood obesity jumped to nearly 70 percent in African-American and Hispanic communities. And with diabetes rates skyrocketing across the nation, perhaps looking at a glass of soda like a cigarette — an item that has also seen a tax hike this past year — might be the best thing for us.

At the very least, sugar-laced drinks would certainly lose their stamp as an inexpensive sweet treat, especially in low income areas where the tax would be felt the most, and where diabetes rates are often higher. And perhaps marketers would have to work a bit harder to convince us just how much we need to guzzle their sodas and sports drinks and whatever other sugar-water they’re selling before we shell out an extra $1.35 for every two-liter bottle we buy.

Though the health-minded among us may see it as a great way to curb consumption and prompt our city’s youth to start opting for water or a diet drink in lieu of a sugar-riddled, pancreas-shocking, say-hello-to-diabetes 20-ounce Coke on daily Wawa runs or corner store stops, is it a fair way to ease the city’s budget crisis? Are you already formulating plans to bus your daily sugar hit across city lines should City Council give the okay, or do you think the tax is the best thing for us and hope to see other cities across the nation follow suit?