D.C. Considers Tax on Soda

The measure takes aim at sugared beverages, including soft drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks, at $0.015 per ounce.

April 02, 2021

Soda Being Poured

WASHINGTON—The District of Columbia Council will vote on a bill that would tack on an extra $0.015 per ounce tax on sugared beverages like soda, sports drinks and energy drinks, WTOP-FM reports. The Nutrition Equity Bill aims to discourage purchases of sugared beverages and make healthier options more attractive.

“This excise tax would go right on the product. Thereby making it apparent to the purchaser that it is more expensive than it was,” said Mary Cheh, the councilmember who sponsored the bill.

The bill also has mandates that District of Columbia homeless shelters serve healthier meals in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Revenue from the tax would be earmarked for the new program, which will give grants for cooking lessons, gardens at family shelters, nutrition education and transitional housing.

Supporters of the bill took their cue from Berkley, Calif., and Philadelphia’s taxes on soda, which have led to a reduction in sugared drink consumption. The council considered a similar bill in 2019. Six D.C. Council members sponsored the bill, so only one additional member needs to approve it for it to pass.

Sugar taxes are nothing new. Various governments across the United States have proposed sugar taxes or enstated them, including Connecticut and the city of Seattle. In May of last year, even after initial success in 2018, Nielson found in a study that the U.K.’s tax on sugared drinks had “little impact” on changing consumer behavior.