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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Philadelphia became the first major city to implement a tax on sugary beverages. Now, Illinois is looking to become the first state to set a levy on the products.
State senators are considering Senate Bill 9 (SB9) as part of the lawmakers' plan to pass a state budget, according to The State-Journal Register. The legislation would tax any beverage that has five grams of sugar or more, meaning drinks like soda and certain juices will be affected.
In addition, the bill requires distributors to impose a penny-per-ounce tax on retailers, which would produce an estimated $560 million for the state, the news outlet reported.
Health care advocates view the beverage tax as a responsible revenue generator. But soft drink representatives say the measure would affect prices and employees in the industry.
Claudia Rodriguez, acting executive director at the Illinois Beverage Association, told the news outlet that the tax won't help solve the state's budget problem, and that the revenue won't go toward health initiatives.
"Nothing in the proposed bill links it to health, or funding any health initiative," Rodriguez said. "It's deceiving to say it's going to solve the budget crisis and help health issues. It's not even projecting how it's going to affect the state."
According to Rodriguez, with 90,000 jobs directly and indirectly related to the beverage industry, passage of SB9 would cause a ripple effect.
"This will directly affect consumers, and all people that depend on the beverages," she said. "People will automatically see it when they go to the cash register, 68 cents added on your typical 2-liter bottle that costs 99 cents. Soda will be taxed at a higher level than beer."
In Maryland's Howard County, home to municipalities like Ellicott City and Columbia, officials have unveiled a new campaign featuring teenagers to help stop the consumption of sugary drinks and challenge the industry's advertising, according to CBS Baltimore.
The Horizon Foundation in Howard County started the campaign three years ago, and even though they say the ads are working, they want to go even further and push beverage manufacturers to switch advertising dollars to healthier options and not high-calorie drinks, the news outlet reported.
The #BevRev campaign is airing this first round of ads on television and on social media through mid-February in the Baltimore and Howard County markets. The ads follow a group of Maryland teenagers as they revolt against the soft drink industry, according to the Horizon Foundation.
"We see #BevRev as analogous to what the truth campaign directed at the tobacco industry," said Glenn Schneider, chief program officer at the Horizon Foundation, which is airing the ads in the Baltimore and Howard County, Md., markets. "It will clear out the fog of misleading soda advertising and replace it with facts that can help consumers — especially young consumers — make healthier drink choices."
For their part, beverage manufacturers say they are encouraging people to make better choices by putting up calorie awareness signs on vending machines. The Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Beverage Association also told the news outlet "they have voluntarily placed clear calorie labels on the front of all bottles, cans and packs they produce so that consumers can make the choice that is best for them and their families."