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Philadelphia set to tax diet soft drinks

soda pop coke glass

Philadelphia is expected to pass a bill on Wednesday that levies a tax of 1.5 cents per ounce on all sweetened soft drinks, including artificially sweetened varieties that contain no calories.

The measure, the result of a compromise among city council members late last week, would make the city the first major urban jurisdiction in the country to levy a so-called soda tax. Berkeley, Calif., has already approved a soda tax, and Boulder, Colo., is considering a levy. Baltimore is eying a proposal to require health warnings on sodas. San Francisco requires warnings on ads for sugared drinks.

Proposals have been aired for a number of other jurisdictions, including the whole state of California. The measures are typically intended to curb consumption of sugary drinks, which some have cited as a major cause of widespread child obesity. For that reason, they usually target sodas that are sweetened with the high-calorie sweeteners high-fructose corn syrup and sugar. Philadelphia’s law is unique in extending to diet drinks.

A separate bill would grant tax incentives to merchants who stock unsweetened beverages, which the city council describes as healthy.

Initially, proponents of the measure were pushing a 3-cents-per-ounce tax, but backed away because of the opposition. The inclusion of diet drinks was apparently part of the compromise.

A vote is expected on June 16, with the consensus calling for a quick approval. The measure is championed by City Council President Darrell Clarke and Mayor Jim Kenney.

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