“Addressing equity in education and health are paramount challenges to ensure everyone has access to opportunity in Seattle. It is imperative that we proactively support Seattle Public School students and improved food access with frontline programs that put equity first. Healthy kids get better educations and are more likely to have a brighter future.”
– Mayor Ed Murray
- Mayor Murray announces plan to address disparities in education and increase access to healthy foods for low-income families
- Sweetened Beverage Tax Ordinance
- Fact sheets:
New Investments in Eliminating Education Disparities
Mayor Murray convened a 2016 Education Summit to address disparities between white students and students of color. The following proposed investments are based on these recommendations, reflecting extensive community engagement. Totals reflect ongoing annual investment levels for K-12 programs, after a lower investment in the first year to allow for ramping up programs and a one-time 13th Year program investment.
Preserving Seattle’s Fresh Bucks and Expanding Food Access
Fresh Bucks is a popular program that allows shoppers who receive Basic Food assistance to double their money. When you spend $10 with your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card at a Seattle Farmers Market or Farm Stand, you get $10 in Fresh Bucks to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and edible plant starts. The goal of the current Fresh Bucks program is to support consumption of more fruits and vegetables by low-income recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
The Mayor is proposing to invest $3.2 million annually to support the current Fresh Bucks program and invest in expanded food access strategies. In order to preserve the current Fresh Bucks program, City funds are needed as the program is supported by federal grants that are not expected to be renewed by the Trump Administration. In addition, to address concerns about those who do not qualify for SNAP benefits and others who do not have access such as unauthorized/undocumented residents, additional investments will be made to expand food access programs.
To fund these investments in education and food access, Mayor Murray has proposed a local tax on naturally and artificially sweetened drinks including soda, energy drinks, juice and sweetened teas. The proposed ordinance would impose a $0.0175 per ounce tax on distributors of sugar sweetened drinks.
Several other cities have implemented similar taxes to fund critical issues such as education, and have found additional health benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said soda taxes are “the single most effective remedy to reverse the obesity epidemic,” and a similar tax in Berkeley, Calif. reduced the consumption of sugary drinks by 10 percent.
The proposed tax is expected to raise $23 million in the first year, and $18 million per year after due to projected declines in sweetened beverage consumption, to be used to fund programs recommended by the Education Summit Advisory Group, Birth to Five programs and programs aimed at providing healthy food access to low-income residents in Seattle. As a declining source of income, not all revenues raised will be invested in ongoing programs. The first year, 20 percent of the revenue raised will be invested in one time capital or time-limited projects such as the creation of water bottling filling stations or health education programs.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Who would pay?
The tax will be levied on distributors of sweetened beverages and related products in the City. The tax would be applied to all distributors regardless of the size of the business.
What products would be subject to the tax?
The ordinance defines sweetened beverages to include liquids with caloric and non-caloric (diet) sweeteners, syrups and powders that are used to prepare sweetened beverages, including:
- Energy and sports drinks
- Fruit drinks
- Sweetened teas
- Ready-to-drink coffee drinks
The ordinance exempts such beverages as 100% fruit juice, infant formula, medicine and milk-based products.
What about concerns regarding the impact on those with low-incomes and communities of color?
Staff from the Mayor’s office and the office of Councilmember Tim Burgess completed a Racial Equity Toolkit (RET) in order to address the disparate impacts that the proposed tax may have on people with low-incomes and communities of color. After engaging in discussions with community advocates, public health professionals and business owners, the inclusion of diet drinks, increased investments in healthy food access and lowering the tax emerged as recommendations that could address the disparate impact of the proposed tax on these communities.
What is the ethnicity/socio-economic profile of heavy sugar-sweetened beverage drinkers?
A lot of data on this topic are old or limited to specific age groups. The City recently completed its own analysis and will be publishing a research brief on it soon. Here are a few statistics from our analysis:
- Blacks and Mexican-Americans are more likely to consume heavy amounts of sugary drinks (i.e., at least 24 ounces per day) than Whites. In 2005-12, the rates of heavy consumption were 30.3% in Blacks, 29.3% in Mexican Americans, and 24.8% in Whites.
- Lower-income Americans are also more likely to be heavy consumers than high-income Americans (30.0% versus 20.5%).
There is also evidence that communities of color drink higher amounts of specific types of sugary drinks. One study, for example, found that Black and Hispanic teens were more likely to drink sports drinks and energy drinks at least once per day compared to Whites, but they were not more likely to drink soda once per day.1 The results in our research brief were similar; we found that Whites, Blacks, and Mexican-Americans consumed approximately the same amount of soda, but there were large racial differences in other types of sugary drinks, particularly fruit drinks.
In contrast to these trends for sugary drinks, Whites and high-income Americans are more likely to drink diet soda compared to communities of color and low-income Americans.2
What data is there showing reduction of consumption due to sugar-sweetened beverage taxes?
- Mexico adopted a sugary drink tax in 2014. After the tax was implemented, purchases of taxed beverages decreased 5.5% in 20143 and 9.7% in 2015,4 yielding an average reduction of 7.6% over the study period. Households at the lowest socioeconomic level had the largest decreases in purchases of taxed beverages in both years.4
- Berkeley, CA adopted a sugary drink tax in 2014. After the tax was implemented, consumption of sugary drinks fell by 21% among low-income residents.5
What are the negative health consequences of heavy sugar-sweetened beverage consumption?
Consumption of sugary drinks is linked to development of many serious chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and dental disease. Worldwide, more than 184,000 deaths a year can be traced to sugary drinks.
- Daily consumption of sugary drinks increases a child’s chances of obesity by 55%.6
- Any sugary drink consumption in infancy increases the chances of obesity at age 6 by 71%.7
- Over the course of a year, a one serving per day increase in sugary drinks is associated with 1/4 to 1/2-pound of weight gain in adults and a 0.06-unit increase in BMI in children and adolescents.8
- Regular sugary drink consumption increases the risk of diabetes by 26%.9
- Regular sugary drink consumption increases the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by almost a third;10 risk of coronary heart disease by 17%;11 risk of heart attack by 19%;12 and risk of high blood pressure by 12%.13
- Adults who drink sugary drinks daily have a 30% increased risk of tooth decay.14
- Infants aged 10-12 months who consume sugary drinks at least 3 times per week have 83% increased chances of dental cavities by age 6.15
What are the health benefits of reduced sugar-sweetened beverage consumption?
There isn’t as much evidence on this, in part because it’s challenging to reduce SSB consumption on a large scale. Several studies have modeled the long-term impact that would occur, in theory, if SSB consumption were reduced. Would those be helpful at all?
There is evidence that replacing SSBs with alternatives leads to lower weight gain, but evidence for other health outcomes is very limited.
Are communities of color more likely to suffer from the typical illnesses related to heavy consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages?
- The prevalence of obesity is lowest among Asian adults (12%), followed by white (35%), Hispanic (43%), and black (48%) adults.16
- More Hispanic children (46%) and black children (44%) have cavities in their baby teeth compared to white children (31%).17
- Black and Hispanic adults are twice as likely to have diabetes as white counterparts (21% versus 11%).18
- Black adults are more likely to have CVD (46% of men and 48% of women) than whites (36% of men and 32% of women).19
- Park S, Blanck HM, Sherry B, Brener N, O’Toole T. Factors Associated with Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Intake among United States High School Students. J Nutr 2012;142:306-12.
- Fakhouri TH, Kit BK, Ogden CL. Consumption of diet drinks in the United States, 2009-2010. NCHS Data Brief 2012:1-8.
- Colchero MA, Popkin BM, Rivera JA, Ng SW. Beverage purchases from stores in Mexico under the excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages: observational study. BMJ 2016;352:h6704.
- Cochero MA, Rivera-Dommarco J, Popkin BM, Ng SW. In Mexico, Evidence Of Sustained Consumer Response Two Years After Implementing A Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax. Health Aff (Millwood) 2017.
- Falbe J, Thompson HR, Becker CM, Rojas N, McCulloch CE, Madsen KA. Impact of the Berkeley Excise Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption. Am J Public Health 2016;106:1865-71.
- Te Morenga L, Mallard S, Mann J. Dietary sugars and body weight: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and cohort studies. BMJ 2013;346:e7492.
- Pan L, Li R, Park S, Galuska DA, Sherry B, Freedman DS. A longitudinal analysis of sugar-sweetened beverage intake in infancy and obesity at 6 years. Pediatrics 2014;134 Suppl 1:S29-35.
- Malik VS, Pan A, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 2013.
- Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Despres JP, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care 2010;33:2477-83.
- Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg EW, Flanders WD, Merritt R, Hu FB. Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. JAMA Intern Med 2014;174:516-24.
- Huang C, Huang J, Tian Y, Yang X, Gu D. Sugar sweetened beverages consumption and risk of coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Atherosclerosis 2014;234:11-6.
- Narain A, Kwok CS, Mamas MA. Soft drinks and sweetened beverages and the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International journal of clinical practice 2016.
- Jayalath VH, de Souza RJ, Ha V, et al. Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and incident hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohorts. Am J Clin Nutr 2015;102:914-21.
- Bernabe E, Vehkalahti MM, Sheiham A, Aromaa A, Suominen AL. Sugar-sweetened beverages and dental caries in adults: a 4-year prospective study. J Dent 2014;42:952-8.
- Park S, Lin M, Onufrak S, Li R. Association of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Intake during Infancy with Dental Caries in 6-year-olds. Clin Nutr Res 2015;4:9-17.
- Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Fryar CD, Flegal KM. Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: United States, 2011-2014. NCHS Data Brief 2015:1-8.
- Dye BA, Thornton-Evans G, Li X, Iafolla TJ. Dental caries and sealant prevalence in children and adolescents in the United States, 2011-2012. NCHS Data Brief 2015:1-8.
- Menke A, Casagrande S, Geiss L, Cowie CC. Prevalence of and Trends in Diabetes Among Adults in the United States, 1988-2012. Jama 2015;314:1021-9.
- Writing Group M, Mozaffarian D, Benjamin EJ, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2016 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation 2016;133:e38-360.
Additional coverage and studies:
- Study Predicts Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Would Not Result in Overall Job Loss (Healthy Food Access)
- The Kids Are Not Alright (Huffington Post)
- Seattle’s sugary-drink tax: Do it for our kids (Benjamin Danielson op-ed in Seattle Times)
- Health Effects of Diet Drinks Research Brief (Healthy Food America)
- Why it is not possible to make determinations on the usefulness of the tax on sugar sweetened beverages in Mexico during 2015 using raw sales data (Mexico National Institute of Public Health)
- Shifts Needed To Align With Healthy Eating Patterns (U.S. Department of Health)