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Chicago Could Get A Tax On Soda & Other Sweetened Beverages

Cook County lawmakers proposed the tax Thursday morning

Doctors To Call For A 'Fat Tax' On Sugary Soda
Chicagoans may have to pay a tax on sugary soft drinks.
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

That rum & Coke could get pricier, as consumers—as well as bar and restaurant owners in Chicago—may have to deal with a new tax. Local lawmakers on Thursday proposed a tax on carbonated pop and other sweetened beverages, including Red Bull-like energy drinks and lemonade. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is behind the penny per ounce tax proposal, reported The Tribune.

Preckwinckle’s staff estimated the tax would raise $74.6 million in the first year. They’re selling it as 72 cents extra for a six pack. As the Tribune noted, San Francisco voters will decide on their own soda tax when casting their ballots next month. A New York law was struck down. For a primer on Big Soda—yes, such a lobbying thing exists—and other cities that have attempted a similar tax, read this Eater National story. The Cook County proposal excludes 100-percent fruit juice, water, milk and baby formula from the tax, reported Crain’s. Philadelphia enacted a steeper tax in June.

The tax would apply to sugar-free drinks that use Splenda or other sweeteners, so drinkers wouldn’t escape the tax by opting for diet options. Fountain drinks would also be taxed, as would many mixers bartenders use in cocktails. It’s hard to consider this a another blow in the war against sugar (a “fat tax”) for health concerns or just a desperate ploy by the Cook County board for revenue. The Tribune drew a parallel to the county’s ban on tobacco smoking. Efforts to enact a beverage tax on the city level went flat about a year ago.