Chicago Soda Tax Hike: Alderman Consider New Sugary Drink Tax In Hearing

Chicago aldermen on Tuesday are slated to consider increasing a tax on soda and other sugary beverages in the city.

The resolution proposing a tax of between 15 and 35 cents per sugary drink was initially introduced by Ald. George Cardenas (12th) earlier this year as part of an effort to curb child obesity rates.

On Tuesday, both proponents and opponents of the proposed tax will testify during a City Council committee hearing spurred on by Cardenas.

Because a state law currently limits the level that sugary drinks can be taxed, the hearing is intended to "start a dialog about ways we can address the obesity epidemic," Claudia Rodriguez, a Cardenas spokeswoman, explained to the Chicago Tribune.

Health advocates argue that a tax would reduce soda consumption and help prevent heart attacks, strokes, cases of diabetes and premature deaths, while also reducing health care costs and generating revenue that would go toward health programs.

And exactly how much revenue are we talking about? Fox Chicago reports that, according to a calculator created by the Yale Rudd Center for Food, Policy and Obesity, the city could bring is as much as $129 million annually with a soda tax of 1 cent per ounce, the rate that Cardenas initially proposed.

Opponents to the tax argue that it would come down hardest on lower-income families and would also impact small businesses negatively.

Still, Cardenas previously argued that the soda tax is necessary to "stem this epidemic." Cardenas' resolution pointed out that 33 states currently have such a tax on sugary beverages, while six also impose an excise tax in addition to a sales tax.

"It's not good for the city or society to have these high rates of obesity," Cardenas previously said of the resolution. "Is that a Big Brother thing? Someone can make the case. I don't think you tell people what to drink and not to drink. But, you steer people. You try, anyway."

Cardenas was also previously behind the city's 5-cents-per-bottle bottled water tax, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2008. The city was the first in the U.S. to pass such a tax.

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