Washington Approves Ban on Grocery, Soda Taxes

Oregon voters did not pass a similar measure aimed at putting the brakes on any locality enacting taxes on soft drinks.

November 09, 2018

SEATTLE – Washington residents approved a measure that prohibits municipalities from passing any tax on grocery items, which would include soft drinks, Forbes reports. But in neighbor Oregon, voters defeated a similar measure that would have forbidden state or local governments from adding taxes to “raw or processed food or beverages intended for human consumption, excluding alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.” The Washington Initiative 1634 does not repeal the soda tax Seattle put into effect this past January, but now other cities or counties are banned from enacting similar ordinances.

The American Beverage Association (ABA) strongly supported the proposals in both Washington and Oregon, describing taxes on soft drinks as not making “people healthier, just poorer.” Research doesn’t fully support the idea that taxing soda is an effective response to the obesity epidemic, but that hasn’t stopped public health officials from pushing for additional fees on soft drinks and other sugary beverages.

The ABA worked with the Yes! To Affordable Groceries campaign on both proposals. Melissa Schwartz, a campaign spokesperson, said that “passage of Initiative 1634 means working families and seniors on fixed incomes won’t have to pay more for groceries too.”

The association, along with PepsiCo and The Coca-Cola Company, have begun to work with statewide initiatives like the Washington and Oregon ones as a way to keep soda taxes from being enacted piecemeal throughout the state.