As of June 16, Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to pass a soda tax. Beginning Jan. 1, 2017 everyone who purchases soda within the municipality of Philadelphia is subject to a 1.5 cent per ounce surcharge. The annual $91 million in funds this tax is expected to raise will go to pre-kindergarten programs, the city’s community schools, parks, recreations and libraries, which all sounds pretty reasonable, right? We mean, other than the fact that the city’s stripping away your freedom to slowly rot your own insides to do it.
And although we love to sip the nectar, let’s all admit that the human relationship with soda is a tumultuous one. Sure, it tastes great, but the evidence that soda consumption is a significant contributor to obesity is irrefutable. Soft drinks can contain up to 400 fiber-less calories. That means, regardless of how much you drink, your chances of feeling full significantly afterward are close to nil. Research has shown that regardless of how many calories of soda people consume, they are unlikely to limit their caloric intake at their next meal — meaning all that soda is actually doing is adding extra weight to your waistline and extra sugar to your bloodstream.
Those who oppose this tax believe the increased price of soda in low-income Philly neighborhoods will deliver a crushing blow to what are already economically depressed areas. But didn’t that blow hit long ago, with the rise of soda’s popularity?
Although the price tag may not be explicit, soda has already cost low-income Philly neighborhoods plenty. Big Soda has been riding off of the backs of these communities for decades. As the soda price stands now, Philadelphians can buy a two-liter bottle of soda for less than a dollar — an unreasonably low price for a beverage that’s shown to increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and kidney issues.
In order to predict possible health outcomes, a professor at Harvard University and Philadelphia’s Health Commissioner co-led a Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost-Effectiveness Study. Analyses of this study claimed that over the next 10 years, Philly’s soda tax may lead to 18,000 fewer cases of obesity, 350-440 fewer deaths, a $98 million decrease in medical costs and 1,000 fewer new cases of Type II diabetes a year.
Perhaps this is why those in favor of the tax choose to look at it as a potential long-term benefit, rather than an immediate inconvenience. Using the tax revenue to improve early childhood education will help to bring some relief to low-income neighborhoods by improving their quality of life and breaking the cycle of poverty and, what’s more, poor health standards generally associated with low-income neighborhoods are likely to see a decrease in case numbers.