Seattle sweetened beverage tax could spread statewide

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Unlike the city of Seattle soda tax, the statewide proposed bill would tax diet drinks as well. ©GettyImages/Kwangmoozaa
Unlike the city of Seattle soda tax, the statewide proposed bill would tax diet drinks as well. ©GettyImages/Kwangmoozaa

Related tags Alcoholic beverage

A bill from February 2017 has been reintroduced to the Washington State Legislature, calling for a two-cent-per-fluid-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened and diet beverages throughout the state.

A 1.75-cent-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax​ went into effect for the city of Seattle on Jan. 2, 2018 and the proposed statewide bill, HB 1975, would have some similarities including that the tax be placed on beverage distributors who will most likely pass the extra cost onto customers.

Products exempt under the bill include 100% natural vegetable and fruit juices, drinks with milk as a primary ingredient, beverages for medical use, meal replacement drinks, infant formula, alcoholic beverages, and syrups including diet version intended for home use.

The bill calls for 50% of funds generated from the tax to be deposited into the public health supplemental account and the other half must be go into the education legacy trust fund.

The Washington state legislatures who drafted the bill included research to support their proposed statewide sweetened beverage tax.

“The legislature finds that Americans are exposed to three times the amount of sugary drinks as sixty years ago and the per capita consumption of sugary drinks exceeds forty gallons per year,”​ the bill stated.

According to the bill’s study, Washington state residents consume an average of 22 gallons of sugary drinks per year, putting adults and children at an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.

Soda tax efficacy

Many consumers have been hit with 'sticker shock' when making their regular purchases of soda or sports drinks. In a Seattle Costco, for example, a case of Coca-Cola costs an additional $8 and a case of Gatorade has jumped from $16 to more than $26.

Dr. Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University believes that soda taxes can decrease consumption and early results of such taxes suggest this.

She also believes that sweetened beverage taxes can benefit public health programs if the extra funds are used properly citing Berkeley, California, as a good example​.

“The city council uses the revenues exactly as promised—to support child health programs in low-income communities,”​ Nestle told BeverageDaily.

 “The irony, of course, is that the more effective the taxes are in reducing sales, the lower the revenue stream.”

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