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Chicago Soda Tax Hike? Alderman Wants Higher Price Tag On Sugary, Energy Drinks

Chicago Soda Tax

First Posted: 02/17/2012 11:06 am Updated: 02/17/2012 11:06 am

A Chicago alderman on Thursday introduced a resolution calling on the City Council to look into a new tax on soft drinks and energy drinks -- a proposal likely to make soda drinkers' teeth ache.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), while initially pushing for a tax of one penny per ounce, is spearheading a tax between 15 and 35 cents per sugary drink sold within city limits as part of an effort to curb child obesity rates, WGN reports.

Cardenas would like to bring in medical experts to testify before the City Council on the impact of sugary drinks on child obesity, as well the impact that higher taxes on the beverages has on children's health, according to WGN.

The proposal would have the added bonus, Cardenas noted, of raising "much-needed" revenue for the city, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

The resolution further points out that 33 states currently have such a tax on sugary beverages, while six also impose an excise tax in addition to a sales tax. Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th) has co-sponsored the resolution and six other aldermen, to date, have also signed on.

"We've taken high-sugar content beverages out of the public schools. The next step is to tax them," Cardenas told the Sun-Times. "We have to stem this epidemic. It's not good for the city or society to have these high rates of obesity. Is that a Big Brother thing? Someone can make the case. I don't think you tell people what to drink and not to drink. But, you steer people. You try, anyway."

Cardenas' "someone" may have referred to David Vite, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, who told the Sun-Times the resolution was "a terrible idea" and more about revenue generation than public health.

Hearings on the matter could take place as early as this spring.

As CBS Chicago points out, Cardenas was also behind the city's 5-cents-per-bottle bottled water tax, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2008. The city was the first in the U.S. to pass such a tax.

A study released last month reported that Americans consumed 13.8 billion gallons of sugar-sweetened beverages in 2009 -- approximately 45 gallons of soda and other drinks. An increased tax on the beverages, the study argued, could reduce consumption and help prevent heart attacks, strokes, cases of diabetes and premature deaths.

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Filed by Joseph Erbentraut  |