Come January, Philadelphia will be the first major US city to tax sodas and other sweetened beverages. The city council rebuffed a multi-million-dollar lobbying effort by the beverage industry in passing the tax, which will add about 50 cents a liter to the cost of sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks and sweetened coffees and teas. Although the measure targeted Philadelphia’s high rates of obesity and overweight – 68% of adults and 41% of children – it also taxes diet drinks containing low-calorie sweeteners. Only drinks containing at least half milk or fruit or vegetable juice are exempt. Mayor Jim Kenney won support for the tax in part by emphasizing that it would raise $91 million a year for pre-K education, community schools and rec centers.
Philadelphia, with 1.5 million people, is the US’ fifth-largest city. Only Berkeley, Calif., currently has a special tax on sugar-sweetened soft drinks.