Philly Soda Tax Hurts the Poor

Thought taxes in Philadelphia were already high enough? Wrong.

Over the summer, Philadelphia’s City Council passed a “soda” tax which Mayor Kenney championed. This tax of 1.5 cents per ounce on sugar-added and diet beverages extends beyond soda to sports drinks, bottled coffee, and flavored water, leading to an 18 cent tax on a can of soda. While the tax is on distributors, it is consumers ― including students at Philly colleges ― who will bear the burden through price increases.

The tax was passed with an emphasis on $91 million in new revenue funding early education in Philadelphia, which is seen as key to its passage since similar taxes have failed when pitched as government infringement on individual liberty for health reasons. While that selling point worked to get the “soda” tax passed in Philly, the first big city to pass one, it misses out on the bigger picture. Sugary drinks are addictive and disproportionately consumed by the poor. This means more money from a meager paycheck is being spent on soda because the addiction is difficult to break.

The very communities in Philadelphia that the tax aims to help are the ones being harmed by the tax more than any other segment of the population. Pre-K education is a wonderful program to support, but not at the expense of kids going home to fewer wholesome food options, fewer school supplies, and greater financial hardship for the household.

So, before you dismiss the increased cost of your favorite sugary drinks, think about the number of poor Philadelphians who are seeing their taxes disproportionately increased due to a failed nanny-state policy.

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