Last summer Philadelphia decided to turn itself into Bloombergistan by imposing a 1.5 cents per ounce tax in sugary soft drinks. [CLARIFICATION/update: The Philadelphia tax also includes diet drink and fruit drinks.] And the tax is working: sales of soft drinks in the city are down by as much as 50 percent. But as with cigarettes, it isn’t clear whether people are actually consuming less pop, or whether they’re buying their Big Gulps and supersize 32-oz bottles outside city limits. One thing is certain, as reported in the New York Post yesterday:
Last week, PepsiCo blamed a 43 percent drop in business on the new tax and announced it would be laying off 80 to 100 area employees (out of 423) over the next few months. Similarly, Canada Dry gave pink slips, effective March 5, to 25 of its workers. Retailers are also feeling the pinch, with Jeff Brown, owner of Brown’s Super Stores, saying he expects to ax 300 employees at his company’s six Philadelphia ShopRite stores this spring.
But one thing the enlightened rulers of Philadelphia overlooked is that taxes on sugary soda pop are—wait for it—racist! Thank goodness we have Seattle to point this out to us. Seattle is proposing a 2-cents per ounce tax on sugary soft drinks, but exempting sugar-free diet drinks. But Gene Balk of the Seattle Times objects:
Mayor Ed Murray’s proposed tax on sodas exempts one kind of soft drink more typically favored by an affluent, educated and white population in Seattle and beyond: diet drinks. . .
Market data show significant racial and ethnic differences in patterns of consumption between sugar-laden beverages and their artificially sweetened counterparts.
He even has charts!
I can already foresee the Diet Coke ad at Super Bowl LII: “Diet Coke: the right beverage for your next Klan-bake.”