Seattle’s Drink Tax Unfairly Targets the Poor

by Harris Yun – Staff Writer

Recently in Seattle, a tax was proposed and accepted that would add an extra cost to sweetened beverages. Under the tax, any sweetened beverage imported into Seattle for retail sale will be charged an extra $.0175 per ounce, unless the manufacturer grosses under $5 million globally, in which case they are charged a lower rate or exempted from the tax altogether.

The law defines a sweetened beverage as any liquid substance intended for human consumption with something in the drink that adds both calories and is perceived by humans as sweet. The tax is only on distributors who purchase the drinks for retail sale, because lawmakers do not want the consumer or small businesses who sell these drinks to pick up the cost of the tax. However, this is a moot point, as distributors will push the extra costs onto retailers, who in turn push those extra costs onto consumers. The way it looks right now, the tax can have one of two outcomes. The first (and much less likely) outcome would be the tax actually discouraging people from purchasing these drinks, promoting public health. With average price per ounce of these drinks, the tax would increase the cost of them by around 70% or more. This large increase would seem like it would stop people buying these unhealthy drinks, but the reality is much more likely to be far from that outcome.

The fact of the matter is, people like soda too much. Sugary drinks are an addiction in today’s America. If anything, this tax will function much like a cigarette tax – it might stop people from starting the cycle of sugary drink addiction, but will not do anything for the people currently drinking soda more than they drink water. If anything, this will only hurt the poor more than they already are being hurt by various taxes around Seattle. It is a proven statistic that poorer families consume more soda on average than a richer family, and this tax will provide corporations a larger excuse to charge more on things that they know are basically unavoidable costs for people. This tax might have started out with good intentions, but now it seems like the only reason it exists is to allow corporations to suck more money out of the lower class in Seattle.

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