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Seattle's Mayor Proposes Soda Tax, Exempts Diet Drinks; Plans Study Of Tariff's Racial Inequality Impact

Posted On: 3/12/2017

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TAGS: Seattle Soda Tax, Mayor Ed Murray, sugary beverages, vending

SEATTLE -- The price of regular sodas would rise in Seattle under a 2¢-per-fl.oz. tax proposed by Mayor Ed Murray; diet drinks would not be affected. The levy would apply only to such sugary beverages as regular sodas, energy and sports drinks, and bottled teas and coffee. For a 2-liter bottle of Coke or Pepsi, for example, the tax could add $1.35 to the cost.

The proposed tax is expected to raise $16 million a year. Proceeds would be used to support educational programs aimed at reducing disparities between white students and minority students. The tariff's main goal is to reduce consumption of sugary drinks.

In a familiar argument, critics of the Seattle tax say it could place a heavier burden on the people it's supposed to help. They point to data that sugar-sweetened soft drinks are more typically favored by blacks and Latinos, and by people with lower incomes and less education. In contrast, whites and Asians are more likely to drink diet sodas, as are people with higher incomes and more education.

A spokesperson for the mayor told The Seattle Times that the city will analyze the proposed tax's impact on racial equity before releasing the final plan.

In January, Philadelphia became the first in a major U.S. city to enact a soda tax, at 1.5¢ per ounce. It applies to both sugary and diet soft drinks.

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