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Seattle warms to soft drink tax

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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has called on the city to adopt a 2-cent-an-ounce tax on sugared soft drinks as a way of simultaneously discouraging consumption and raising money for education.

The surcharge would apply to most sugared beverages, including soda, energy drinks, fruit-based drinks, sweetened iced tea and prepackaged coffee drinks. It would not apply to artificially sweetened beverages and coffee that’s prepared on premise.

The fees would be levied on drink distributors, who would presumably channel down the added cost to retailers.

The mayor has already suggested that proceeds be used to close an education gap between African-American and white youths residing in the city.

Seattle is the latest jurisdiction to consider a soft drink tax. Murray broke new ground in combining what have been the leading two rationales for the taxes. Berkeley, Calif., adopted the fee to combat obesity by discouraging the consumption of high-calorie drinks. Philadelphia also passed a soft drink tax, but proponents based their appeal in large part on the financial benefits to the city.

Studies have shown that Berkeley’s tax cut consumption of sugary beverages in the city by as much as 20%.

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