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Soft drink tax to begin Aug. 2 in Chicagoland

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A penny-an-ounce tax on soft drinks will take effect tomorrow in Chicago after opponents failed to sustain a court-ordered halt on adoption.

The tax extends to all of Cook County, a densely populated area that includes the city and a number of its suburbs. The county is the nation's second largest, with more than 5.2 million residents.

Unlike the taxes in Philadelphia and Berkeley, Calif., the Cook County tax applies to all sweetened beverages, including diet versions that are sweetened with zero-calorie alternatives to sugar. It extends to both prepackaged and fountain drinks.

Juices, waters, and coffee and tea brewed on-premise are not covered.

Although county officials cite potential health benefits from the tax, they have acknowledged that their motivation is financial. After a judge stopped enactment of the law on June 30, the county alerted 300 employees they would be laid off, saying the jurisdiction would not have sufficient funds without the tax to pay the job holders.

Local retailers have griped that the sudden about-face on the law on Friday left them insufficient time to adjust to the higher prices they will be required to charge.

On Friday, the Circuit Court of Cook County reversed the temporary stay on the tax that was issued June 30 by Judge Daniel Kubasiak after the Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed a legal challenge. The levy was originally set to begin on July 1.

The IRMA has indicated that it is considering an appeal of the Circuit Court’s decision.

Consumption of sugared drinks dropped 21% after a penny-an-ounce tax was levied in Berkeley. 

Seattle; Boulder, Colo.; and San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, Calif., have also recently passed taxes on sweetened drinks. 

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