Seattle shoppers may see a rise in the price of sugary beverages after the city’s new tax kicked in on Jan. 1.
The tax, approved by the City Council in June, is levied on distributors that sell their products in the city. Affected products include beverages that have any form of caloric, sugar-based sweeteners, such as non-diet soda, some fruit juices and sports drinks.
Exempted from the tax are diet sodas, milk-based beverages and alcoholic drinks.
The tax is 1.75 cents per fluid ounce, meaning that a typical 12-pack of 12-ounce sodas would bear a roughly $2.50 assessment.
Small-scale manufacturers certified by the city as having made $2 million or less in the prior calendar year will not be taxed, and those that made between $2 million and $5 million can pay a lower rate per fluid ounce. The city has estimated it will raise about $15 million in the first year of the tax.
Although distributors are not required to pass those costs on to their customers, opponents of the tax fear that it will lead to an increase in the price of grocery store items.
Money raised under the tax will be used in part to fund an expansion of the Fresh Bucks program, which helps low-income individuals and families purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
The goal is to improve health outcomes by reducing the amount of soda or other sugary drinks consumed. Such beverages are linked to diabetes and heart conditions.
Critics of the tax say that it is regressive and targets drinks that are predominately consumed by people of color. Drinks that skew more toward affluent, White consumers such as diet sodas and sugar-laden coffee drinks that list milk as the primary ingredient are not impacted by the tax.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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