Chicago Scraps Controversial Soda Tax amid Pressure

Bottle of PepsiCook County, which includes the suburban areas around Chicago and the city itself, repealed a controversial soda tax on a 15 to 2 vote Wednesday. The move comes in the wake of a major backlash from the industry, store owners, and public health groups.

The tax’ proponents argued that repealing the tax would create a $200-million gap in the county’s budget for the next fiscal year, which starts December 1. Supports also think a soda tax could curb the consumption of the unhealthy beverages.

Tax opponents hailed the decision noting that a soda tax would not be enough to fight obesity but it would surely impact low-income consumers. A spokesman for the American Beverage Association noted that soda taxes are losing momentum. The association blasted beverage taxes as a “money grab” disguised as a public health measure.

The American Heart Association, on the other hand, accused the soda industry of misleading authorities with “false claims just to get rid of the tax. The group’s chief executive Nancy Brown thinks the industry sacrifices the health of kids and their families for the sake of its profits.

The AHA pledged to continue its push for soda taxes nationwide.

Other Municipalities Eye Soda Taxes

Cook County is not the only jurisdiction to impose a beverage tax, Berkeley, CA, Boulder, CO, Philadelphia, PA, San Francisco, and Seattle all plan to roll out similar measures starting January 1.

When reached for comment, Cook County board members weren’t available. A spokesperson explained that the officials were busy with a full-panel meeting. The board’s president Toni Preckwinkle, who pushed for the tax, said that commissioners should choose the county’s direction on revenue. “I respect their authority to do so,” she added.

Local retailers and the industry warned of lost sales and possible firings linked to the soda tax. The Can the Tax Coalition, an industry-funded group that fought the measure, reported that some in-store sales of sugary drinks plunged after the tax was rolled out on August 2.
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