The Seattle Times reports: Nearly 100 percent of Seattle’s new tax on the distribution of sweetened beverages has been passed on to consumers through higher in-store prices, a new report estimates.
But some taxed beverages have increased in price more than others and some stores have increased their prices more than others, according to the report by University of Washington researchers that City Council members are set to discuss Wednesday.
Sodas have increased in price more than sugar-sweetened juices and bottled coffee drinks, and smaller stores have increased their prices more than supermarkets, the report indicates.
Additionally, some smaller stores have increased their prices even for beverages not subject to the tax, such as diet sodas.
“We don’t know why, but they did see something similar in Berkeley,” the California city that adopted a tax before Seattle, said research-team leader Jesse Jones-Smith, an associate professor of health services and epidemiology.
Seattle’s tax of 1.75 cents per fluid ounce, which took effect in January 2018, is charged to distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages. But the distributors can pass the tax on to stores and the stores can pass the tax on to consumers.
When the City Council approved the tax in 2017, many proponents said the goal was to decrease consumption of unhealthful beverages by driving up prices, while others supported the policy because they said it would raise money for healthful-eating and education programs.
Foes said the tax would disproportionately hurt people with low incomes. Some store owners and consumers opposed the measure, along with unionized beverage-industry workers.
The city collected nearly $17 million in the first nine months of the tax, surpassing its initial expectations, and officials now are counting on the money to keep rolling in, with substantial annual declines no longer anticipated.
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