The tax has twin objectives: improving public health by discouraging consumption of sweetened beverages and raising funds for pre-kindergarten and improvements to city infrastructure. Opponents, led by an American Beverage Industry-funded front group known as Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax, claim that the tax unfairly targets the poor, hurts small businesses, and infringes on individual’s right to choose what they drink. The Pew poll shows that industry-led opposition is not resonating with most Philadelphians, especially young people. Young Philadelphians – and other supporters of the tax – appear to value public health and pre-K more than cheaper sodas, which are predicted to increase in price by up to 30 cents for a 20-ounce drink.
Another possible reason behind Philadelphians’ support for the tax is that less and less Americans are drinking sodas. Since the 1980s, regular soda sales have decreased by more than 25 percent. This means that less Americans will directly experience the tax’s economic impact, one of the possible bases for opposition. People reducing soda consumption to improve their own health may also support the tax for its capacity to help others reduce consumption.
Whatever their reasons, Philadelphians, particularly young people, support their city’s efforts to reduce soda consumption and improve community programs and infrastructure. On November 4, voters in San Francisco, Oakland, Albany (CA) and Boulder (CO) will vote on similar taxes. Stay tuned to see whether the public enthusiasm and political will witnessed in Philadelphia and Berkeley, CA, will be replicated across the country.
The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.