Chicago-Area Residents No Longer Have To Pay More For Pop

Oct 11, 2017
Originally published on October 11, 2017 6:33 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Just a few months after a controversial tax on sugary drinks took effect in Cook County, Ill. - that's where Chicago is - commissioners have voted to repeal it. As NPR's Allison Aubrey reports, it is a big win for big soda companies.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: A year ago, the movement to tax sugary drinks seemed to be taking off. Voters in four cities, including San Francisco and Boulder, passed measures, and the World Health Organization called on nations around the globe to do the same. The argument public health advocates have used to promote the tax is this.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: When kids drink soda pop, they're getting a lot more than they bargained for because just one soda a day can lead to an extra 10 pounds a year, and...

AUBREY: In this ad which was paid for by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the 1-cent-per-ounce tax is framed as a way to protect kids.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: But the soda tax can make a difference, reducing the epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes with the money helping to support Cook County hospitals and health programs.

AUBREY: This message has not won over a lot of business owners in Cook County who have rallied against it.

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Can the tax. Can the tax. Can the tax.

AUBREY: At a rally last month, store owners argued that the tax has hiked up the price of beverages, which has hurt businesses and working-class families. Marshall Pierce runs a store called Corner Pantry Express. He says the tax is unfair.

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MARSHALL PIERCE: Commissioners who support this tax don't care about public health. They have chosen to tax working families so they can spend more money.

AUBREY: The anti-tax coalition behind the repeal effort called Can the Tax is funded by the American Beverage Association. Spokesperson David Goldenberg says since the Cook County tax took effect, some residents have been leaving the county to do their shopping.

DAVID GOLDENBERG: Businesses in Cook County are being devastated by the beverage tax.

AUBREY: He says sales of beverages in the county have declined in some cases about 20 to 30 percent. And if this means people are drinking fewer sugary drinks, public health advocates would call this progress. But it seems the anti-tax sentiment has won over county commissioners. They voted by an overwhelming majority to repeal that tax, which will likely happen in early December. The decision comes as efforts to tax sugary drinks face pushback in other places around the country. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF 40 WINKS' "OUTSIDE THE BOX") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.