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It was just a few days ago that MNB took note of a CNBC report that “almost two and a half years after the city of Philadelphia imposed taxes on soft drinks and other sweetened beverages - at the rate of 1.5 cents per ounce - sugary drink sales there actually have dropped 38 percent.”

Which, from the point of view of public health experts, might be considered a success. It may, however, just be temporary.

The New York Times reports this morning on primary elections taking place in Philadelphia today that could result in the end of those taxes.

Philadelphians, the story says, “will be indirectly voting on its survival. Though not on the ballot, the soda tax has become a heated issue in the city’s local elections this year, with emotions fanned in part by anti-soda tax television commercials and online ads paid for by the beverage industry. The two Democrats challenging Mayor Jim Kenney oppose the tax, as do a score of City Council hopefuls who decry the 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax as an unfair burden on the city’s poorest residents. The levy, on average, adds about 30 percent to the cost of sweetened beverages.”

The Times writes that despite millions of dollars spent by lobbyists to try to prevent the taxes from being imposed, and then an unsuccessful lawsuit that attempted to overturn them, there has been an economic impact from the new taxes: Millions of dollars were freed up and directed “toward creating 4,000 prekindergarten slots, 12 new community schools and an ambitious program to rebuild the city’s crumbling libraries and recreation centers. Next year, the city plans to add another 1,000 pre-K seats.” And that doesn’t even count the health impact.

Opponents, however, argue that the health benefits are illusory, since it has been demonstrated that many Philadelphians are simply leaving the city to make their sweetened beverage purchases.
KC's View:
If the Philadelphia soda taxes end up repealed, it will provide a significant amount of juice (pun intended) to those pro-soda lobbyists who take it as a sign that their fight is never done.