Government officials in Cook County, US, have this week voted to repeal a tax on sugary soft drinks, just two months after it was introduced.
The county, which is located in Illinois and includes Chicago, narrowly agreed to pass the tax last year as a means of fighting high levels of obesity.
It was introduced in August and represents the largest soda tax in the US, applying to soda, sports drinks, flavoured water, energy drinks, pre-made sweetened coffee, and tea with less than 50% milk content.
However, following a multimillion-dollar media battle between public health groups and the soda industry, the Cook County board of commissioners voted 15-2 to roll back the tax, effective from 1 December.
The short-lived tax has come under relentless attack from the soda lobby, which claims it disproportionally affects the county’s poorest citizens. The Washington Post reported that the Can the Tax Coalition, an anti-tax group funded by the American Beverage Association, spent more than $3.2 million on radio and TV adverts.
Meanwhile, public health groups claimed that the tax encourages citizens to reduce consumption of sugary drunks, while raising much-needed funds for public services.
Following the vote, the American Heart Association (AHA) announced its ‘deep disappointment’ with the decision, as the measure ‘would have saved the county more than $200 million in health care costs over the next ten years’.
AHA CEO Nancy Brown said: “[The] decision by the Cook County commissioners protects beverage industry profits at the expense of kids and families.
“We are grateful to all the local American Heart Association volunteers, the Illinois Public Health Institute, and the numerous local organisations, medical professional, faith leaders and other visionaries, such as former New York City mayor and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg, for their significant efforts to protect people from the harmful impacts of sugary drinks.”
The American Beverage Association, which represents companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, said: “We applaud the county commissioners for listening to their constituents, of which nearly 90% opposed the tax.
“America’s beverage companies will continue to provide more choices than ever before through innovation, including smaller portions and options with less sugar, and support our consumers by standing with them against these unfair taxes.”
The news comes the same week as the Irish government announced it will introduce a sugary soft drinks tax as of April 2018. A rate of 30c a litre on beverages with more than 8g of sugar will be in place in a bid to reduce consumption of high-calorie drinks.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2018