Philadelphia made history by becoming the first major city in the United States to put a tax on sugary drinks. The decision was made official after the Philadelphia City Council voted to approve a one and a half percent tax hike on sugary and artificial drinks, a move which had been facing much opposition through advertising and lobbying from soda companies.
Philadelphia’s New Sugary Drink Tax
The final vote to pass the tax on sugary drinks was 13-4, and came amid a bombardment of anti-sugar tax advertisements paid for by the soda industry. These included commercials, radio announcements and even previews in movie theaters.
It is estimated that the beverage industry spent a total of $5 million lobbying against the tax since it was first introduced by the Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney. The passing of this tax marks a significant victory in the battle against the soda industry, which many experts, including Dr. Jim Krieger, executive director of Healthy Food America, claim contribute to some of the most common health conditions faced by Americans today.
“The idea of recapturing a sliver of profits from an industry that pushes a product known to contribute to diabetes, obesity and heart disease in poorer communities in order to reinvest in those communities has a lot of power,” Krieger told Forbes. “We are already hearing from places inspired by the city’s ability to withstand $5 million of industry pressure to act on behalf of their kid’s health and future prospects.”
Several other major cities and even states have proposed soda tax measures this year, including Alabama, Illinois and San Francisco.
Soft Drinks and Health Risks
Although the companies that sell sugary drinks deny any correlation between them and the many health problems facing Americans, including obesity, several studies have proven otherwise.
One analysis conducted by researchers at Harvard University found a correlation between an increase in marketing for sugary drinks and obesity in Americans.
One study that was conducted over a 20 year timespan found that people who had an extra 12 ounces of soda everyday gained more weight over time than those who didn’t, which was on average about four pounds a year. Aside from just overall weight gain, researchers also found that drinking only one extra can of pop a day increase an individual’s chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 26%.
Another study that followed around 40,000 men for 20 years found that those who had, on average, one can of sugary soda per day had a 20% increased chance of dying from a heart attack than men who rarely consumed them. A related study found a similar correlation between sugary beverages and heart disease in women as well.
This shows that Philadelphia is one of the few cities taking measures to improve the health of their populace while at the same time generating money that can be used to fund programs that will make their city an overall better place.