Soda Taxes

Five More U.S. Jurisdictions Imposed Soda Taxes Last Week

Cook County, Boulder, San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany, California, join Berkeley and Philadelphia in penalizing soft drink consumers.



Last week five more jurisdictions joined Berkeley and Philadelphia in imposing special taxes on soda and other soft drinks. Four of the taxes were approved on Election Day by voters in Boulder, Colorado, and three California cities: San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany. The fifth was approved last Thursday by the Cook County, Illinois, Board of Commissioners.

Boulder's Ballot Issue 2H, which Eric Boehm noted last week, passed with 54 percent of the vote. It imposes an excise tax of two cents per fluid ounce on drinks that have five or more grams of added sugar in a 12-ounce serving. It does not apply to alcoholic beverages or milk products.

San Francisco's Measure V, which passed with 62 percent of the vote, imposes a one-cent-per-ounce excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages that contain more than 25 calories per 12-ounce serving. Milk products, baby formula, and meal-replacement beverages are exempt.

Oakland's Measure HH, which also was favored by 62 percent of voters, imposes the same tax with the same exemptions.

Albany's Measure O1, which is essentially the same as the other two California initiatives, passed with 71 percent of the vote.


Cook County, which includes Chicago, has 5.2 million residents, making it the most populous U.S. jurisdiction to approve a soda tax so far. Unlike the four 2016 ballot initiatives but like Philadelphia's tax, the one-cent-per-ounce levy approved by Cook County last week applies to artificially sweetened beverages as well as soft drinks with added sugar. That approach broadens the base, raises more money, and makes the tax a bit less regressive (since consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks is especially common in low-income households, while wealthier consumers are more likely to favor diet versions). But it means drinks with zero calories (such as Diet Coke) get hit with a special tax that does not apply to drinks (such as fruit juice) that are just as fattening as regular soda. Taxing beverages without regard to calorie content makes a hash of the already dubious argument that soda taxes will reduce obesity by driving down total calorie intake.

If passed through to consumers, the one-cent taxes will add 68 cents to the cost of a two-liter bottle and $1.44 cents to the cost of a 12-pack. Boulder's two-cent tax adds $1.36 and $2.88, respectively.

"We understand the health threats posed by unhealthy sugary drinks, especially on low-income families," said Angelique Espinoza, manager of the Boulder soda tax campaign, after the initiative passed. "Today Boulder took an important, proactive step toward ensuring that all of us—our children in particular—have every opportunity to make better choices and to lead healthy lives."

The Boulder Weekly had a different perspective: "We oppose 2H with exactly the same line of logic as we use to oppose Amendment 72 [a proposed tobacco tax increase that failed last week]. This is a sin tax that provides money for beneficial programs on the backs of a small segment of the population. We reiterate that sin taxes are regressive, and research shows they do little to curb consumption or improve public health. We hate it when people call Boulder a 'nanny state.' We hate it more when they are right."

NEXT: Trump Wants To Deport As Many Undocumented Immigrants As Obama Already Has

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. OT : not the Onion:

    President Obama should pardon Hillary Clinton to pre-empt Donald Trump’s threat

    President Obama should pre-emptively pardon Hillary Clinton and inoculate her from a spiteful prosecution by the Trump Administration.

    PRESIDENT Obama should pre-emptively pardon Hillary Clinton to protect her and the United States from a vindictive, showboat prosecution by the incoming Trump administration.

    President-elect Trump should also take the high road and explicitly say he won’t prosecute Clinton over her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

    1. I would love to see this, actually. It would only bolster the well-deserved taint that Comey put on her, bring his own legacy into disrepute, placate some on the left, and remove a distraction from Trump’s takeover.

      1. Heh. “Taint.”

      2. If This Sound Good For You & Interested
        Watch Now….!!!Streaming Online HD Movie :
        ? ? ? ? ? ?
        Happy & Enjoy to Watch For Free
        Or Visit first for check :

    2. Isn’t this basically admitting that she (or someone) is guilty of a crime? I mean you can’t pardon someone for not doing something illegal. Its telling her to plead no contest and then pardoning her.

      1. Anyone especially worried about her being indicted is willing to overlook any niggling doubts as to whether she oughtn’t be.

      2. Exactly — the point is to convict her in public opinion without the distraction of a lengthy trial and the associated martyrdom. While I would be most satisfied with a lengthy trial making all her crimes public and undeniable, it wouldn’t really accomplish anything, and it would make her a martyr in the eyes of Dumbocrats. Heck, it would probably encourage Chelsea to run to avenge her mama.

        1. Listen, and understand! Chelsea is out there! She can’t be bargained with. She can’t be reasoned with. She doesn’t feel shame, or guilt, or ignominy. And she absolutely will not stop, ever, until another Clinton is in the White House.

          1. I don’t think Chelsea has what it takes. Is a vestigial amygdala inheritable?

            1. Just how charming and willing to take whatever position gets him elected is her husband. Would he throw her under the bus after losing and have factors claim that he was the only one who wanted to focus on a key demographic that voted against her?

          2. Chesea?! Chelsea’s a moron. Evil cunning skips a generation. If Rodham’s grandkids are really her grandkids, and not kidnapped from, let’s say, the gypsies, they will have the genetics to become the greatest criminal masterminds the world has ever seen.

  2. “Today Boulder took an important, proactive step toward ensuring that all of us?our children in particular?have every opportunity to make better choices and to lead healthy lives.”

    No pop for the paupers.

    1. And what better way to give people more opportunity to make their own choices than to heavily tax the choices we don’t like.

    2. Let them drink prairie dog blood.

      1. -1 Y. pestis culturing fluid.

    3. What a load of bull. A bald scam using a ‘good sounding’ idea to usurp dollars from the consumers of soda beverages. And then the wench in Boulder has the nerve to try to manipulate peoples’ consideration for kids??? If you dont want to include these substances in your and your kids’ diets, dont. But to dishonestly use government threat or use of force (that is exactly what is occurring here) to extract the earned values from people under the guise of public good is beyond sleazeball. Using these tactics is SOP for the governments of the US and around the world. And people wonder why there is so much turmoil around the world??

  3. people can’t do math – “but it’s only 1 cent per ounce”…. and how many ounces are in a can of coke?

    / blank stare

    also, fuck sin taxes. Tell Democrats to get out of your kitchen. Remember when they smugly would tell Republicans not to “legislate morality”

    1. When you raise taxes on soda it lowers soda consumption, when you raise taxes on income it _____ income.

      1. Increases income, because it gives government more spending money which increases aggregate demand and everybody benefits. Obviously, government should tax all earnings and spend it back into the economy, which will cause our incomes to rocket astronomically, giving the government more money to spend back into the economy, causing income to rocket astronomically, forever and ever and ever.

        *closes Krugman’s Economic Fables*

      2. …increases the equality of….

    2. Apropos, this is a thing that a prog friend of mine actually said.

      I think in general democrats care more about what can affect others and republicans are out for themselves first.

      1. And Libertarians only care about making sure orphans have to work in textile mills.

      2. Some of us are getting a little sick of being told what we believe by others.

  4. Screw tax-hungry municipalities, but it really is insane how much sugar we consume. No, those aren’t just empty calories, they’re an endocrinological snowball rolling downhill.

    1. -1 SugarFree pancreas

      1. SugarFree may have a shriveled pancreas, but it’s still bigger than

    2. This is why I support the libertarian-friendly alternative policy of public fat-shaming. Hopefully Trump will help lead us in that direction.

      1. The fat floggings will continue until diets improve.

  5. Nanny-state powers – Activate!

    1. The same people who decry marijuana prohibition and despise the over-reaching moralists who support it are the SAME EXACT FUCKING PEOPLE who can’t wait to tax your soduhz cauze you FAT!

      1. Also not to mention all these taxes exclude carmel pumpkin lattes from Starbucks… hmmmmm

  6. You know, I saw a breathless report by Vice news (which has become a sad shill for the Democrats) complete with ominous music and references to “Big Soda” and their shady tactics in avoiding these necessary and proper taxes.

    1. I combat this stupid tactic by imagining they are talking about a literal enormous sentient soft drink that follows Michael Bloomberg around and yells at him.

  7. It’s a self-solving problem. Have a friend who used to drink nothing but Mountain Dew… until the seven root canals.

    1. So now he can’t chew his Mountain Dew?

    2. This is nothing. Back in high school I used to drink a hundred cans of cola a week. Right up until my third heart attack.

      1. I once went to a convenience store that did not stock Diet Coke. I was dumbfounded. People are addicted to that stuff.

  8. That approach broadens the base, raises more money, and makes the tax a bit less regressive (since consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks is especially common in low-income households, while wealthier consumers are more likely to favor diet versions). But..

    I knew a “but” was coming but it took way too long and now I am all triggered by this commie nonsense. I hope they were super careful to never mislead the public about the bill, and point out that while it may lower obesity with some it could increase it elsewhere–and if not they should be charged with fraud just like a private firm would for the opposite claim.

  9. Not that I’m cynical, but I bet a lot of pro-Cook-County-tax came from convenience store owners on the north side of Lake Cook Road.

    1. Pretty glad I live only a couple miles from the border

    2. It takes Baptists AND Bootleggers to make a winning prohibition coalition.

    3. Here in Cook it was an 8 to 8 tie. The commisioner, Toni Preckwinkle, cast the deciding vote. From what I understand she usually doesn’t participate in the voting.

  10. Side note to Mr. Sullum.

    I’d love to read an article by you with something like a primer on the extent to which states’ recent victories on cannabis could be ignored by Trump’s appointee as Attorney General.

    Obama said he wouldn’t go after medical marijuana dispensaries if they were complying with state and local laws, but wasn’t that only an executive order?

    Is there any case law supporting recreational marijuana at this point?

    What, if anything, protects recreational marijuana retailers from, say, Attorney General Sessions’ DEA?

    1. The decency and reserve of the federal government?


        *Takes a breath*


  11. Paying our pensions, one rotted out tooth at a time.

  12. It does not apply to alcoholic beverages or milk products.

    Wouldn’t want to tax Pinot or Frappucinos. That might affect progs.

  13. “We understand the health threats posed by unhealthy sugary drinks, especially on low-income families,” said Angelique Espinoza, manager of the Boulder soda tax campaign,

    So we made them even lower income by taxing their sodas, and exempted rich people like ourselves by not taxing our sugary coffee drinks.

  14. I work in Cook County and live in Lake County. What do you think my actions will be in response to this taxation?

    1. You are gonna shake your fist at the sky as you drink your soda?

      1. “Old man yells at cloud”

    2. I work in Dupage. I buy all of my gas out of Cook. Interestingly, eggs are one of several things that I’ve noticed are cheaper in Chicago than out in the suburbs. Alcohol usually is as well, but the taxes levied make it about even.

  15. I like that Cook County just took off the mask by having the same tax on sugar-free soda.

    “We are imposing a tax on these sugar-laden drinks because of the serious health effects of consuming so much sugar!”

    ……. oh… and these drinks that don’t have any sugar in them too. Because….. uhm…..

    …. hang on….. I’ll come up with something…..

    They saw a way to exploit liberal feelz to get more money out of people’s pockets. This is all. They are a protection racket, pure and simple.

    1. Aspartame, man. It killed my grandma. That, and gluten. And GMOs.

      1. Aspartame causes cancer. My brother told me so.

        1. It turned me into a newt.

  16. What a delicious (pun intended) opportunity to see whether any judges will actually apply rational basis review to a sugar tax on sugar-free beverages.

  17. We should put a tax per ounce on abortions.

    1. *slow clap*

    2. Penaltaxes are permitted so I’m told.

  18. This is a sin tax that provides money for beneficial programs on the backs of a small segment of the population.

    Horseshit. It gets dumped into the general treasury and then funnelled into the pockets of public sector employees like every other tax and fee.

  19. An insurance company in the area has started running commercials featuring a man-bunned douche doing parkour and telling everyone how if he drank soda he would be too fat to parkour. So there’s that.

    1. That story had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Nice work!

  20. I’m not a huge fan of some of the money I spend on soda being used to kill people halfway around the world or keep nonviolent drug users in cages, but wer’re like really really broke, and this is at least a tax on consumption. Not the worst way a government could go about raising money.

    1. Shh, don’t give them any ideas or they’ll start killing two birds with one stone and introduce a 1% tax on your net worth every time you drink a soda.

  21. sin tax

    “Thou shalt not drink what is sugary, nor eat of the fat that is trans.”

  22. The closest grocery store not affected by the tax here will have much more business.

    1. I did the math while debating someone here about our new soda tax. The tax on one 12 pack is more than the gas spent on driving out of town. By about 10 cents if you used 20mpg. Since everyone here drives a subaru, that number should be higher. But even an f350 would be worth it if you shopped right.

      1. I already do all my grocery shopping outside of Boulder because of the bag tax. This is just one more reason to stop in Superior or Louisville for shopping.

  23. Both Coca Cola and Pepsico backed Hillary Clinton and subsequently the party that want to tax and regulate them out of business.
    Suck it up buttercups.

  24. I imagine that the voters in the effected jurisdictions could send their law makers in search of honest labor if sufficiently annoyed.

  25. It’s like a municipal certification of stupid.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.