Philly’s Soda Tax Is Absolutely Wrecking Soda Sales, As Intended

03.01.17 2 years ago 25 Comments


People love soda. Some really love it — fighting to drink it out of giant buckets and refill said buckets ad infinitum. But, at least in Philadelphia, they aren’t willing to pay an extra tax for it. When it comes to spending more, it turns out water will do just fine.

Just over a month ago, Philadelphia instituted a tax on sweetened beverages. Pop drinkers now have to pay an extra 1.5 cents for every ounce purchased. If you don’t think that’s a lot, you’ve never sipped on a 64-ounce Big Gulp from 7-Eleven. In just six weeks, the city has amassed $5.7 million dollars from the tax. That’s a pretty steep price to pay for Fanta and as much as the city has made, many grocery stores and drink distributors are claiming that their sales have dropped 50% in that same span.

Part of the drop in sales is due to consumers leaving the city to buy soda in order to avoid the tax. Others are just foregoing their usual soda at dinner. “The important point is that this is having a dramatic, negative impact on retailers, businesses and customers in the city,” Alex Baloga, vice president of external relations at the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association told USA Today. “When you almost double the cost of a product, it’s impossible to absorb that kind of an increase.”

If it takes a tax to get people to drink something other than sugar-filled soda, or at least consider health and wellness when making beverage choices, then that seems like a good thing, right? According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, two out of three adults are overweight or obese. And, it’s not because they’ve been gorging on Hot Pockets. Consumers’ addiction to sugary beverages is listed as one of the main reasons for the obesity epidemic.

According to a 2015 article by Barbara Sadick in the Chicago Tribune, Americans ingest 78 grams of sugar every day. The American Heart Association claims that we should only take in 24-36 grams depending on your age and sex. “Just one 12-ounce soda contains 8 to 9 teaspoons (32-36 grams) of sugar,” writes Sadick.

If you didn’t know it already, sugar is really bad for us. It’s addictive and if we try to get out of our system, we go through withdrawal-like symptoms. It’s partly why we grab for can after can of diet Coke. We need that combination of caffeine and sugar or we’ll feel terrible. Some doctors even believe it’s as addictive as cocaine.

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