Healthy Living

Seattle Sugary Drinks Tax Passes Council

It will increase funding for healthy food access, public health, early learning and education programs.
06/05/2017 07:37pm ET | Updated June 6, 2017

The Seattle Healthy Kids Coalition and American Heart Association celebrate the Seattle City Council today voting to adopt a tax on sugary drinks in Seattle to increase funding for healthy food access, public health, early learning and education programs for communities most affected by the obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemics.

Thomas R. Frieden, immediate past director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said soda taxes are “the single most effective measure to reverse the obesity epidemic.”

The Healthy Kids Coalition represents a broad group of Seattle and national leaders and organizations supporting healthy food access, public health, early learning and education who are advocating in support of a tax on sugary drinks.

“On behalf of our entire coalition of medical professionals, public health, education and early learning advocates, we applaud the City Council for boldly adopting a tax on sugary drinks to increase funding for critical programs in communities that need them the most,” said a joint statement from co-chairs Dr. Ben Danielson of Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic and El Centro de la Raza Executive Director Estela Ortega. “The soda industry disproportionately markets sugary drinks to communities of color, especially youth. And these very communities are most affected by the obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemics resulting from the consumption of sugary drinks. That’s why a tax on sugary drinks – like taxes on tobacco – will be effective in not only addressing the health impacts of these products, but also in increasing funding for early learning, education and public health programs in Seattle.

The Healthy Kids Coalition previously released statements from coalition members following the City Council Committee on Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods & Finance, chaired by Councilmember Tim Burgess, approval to forward the legislation to the Full Council today.

“As a physician and Seattle resident, I applaud the City Council for their hard work to engage with our city’s diverse communities in developing a tax on sugary drinks that will effectively help address the public health epidemics of obesity and Type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Mary Ann Bauman, national board member of the American Heart Association. “The science on sugary drinks is crystal clear. Compared to children who rarely consume sugary drinks, children who drink at least one serving of sugary drinks per day have 55 percent increased odds of being overweight or obese. Adopting this tax will give our kids a healthy start in life and set them on a path to success.”

“If this ordinance passes, Seattle will be the first city to invest revenue from a sugary beverage tax into closing the food security gap for working families," said Tammy Nguyen, food access organizer for Got Green. "We strongly support a tax on sugary drinks not only to address the negative health consequences from these products affecting communities of color, but also because the majority of the revenue will go toward expanding healthy food programs for the communities that need them most. There are no other funding streams to close the food security gap for communities of color in Seattle, so this is an opportunity that is not to be missed. Despite great strides made through programs like Fresh Bucks to close the food access gap among communities of color, there is much more work to be done that can lower barriers to healthy food choices for all.”

“Investing in early childhood education is a no-brainer. The first five years of life are critical in a child’s development and set the foundation for a lifetime of well-being,” said Ryan Murphy, Washington state Mobilization Manager for Save the Children Action Network. “That’s why we are enthusiastically supporting the proposed tax on sugary drinks. This tax will allocate funding for evidence-based programs to reduce the disparities in outcomes for children and families based on race, gender, or other socioeconomic factors so that all children are prepared for kindergarten, as well as increase funding for capital projects supporting classroom facilities for the Seattle Preschool Program.”

“We know that the soda industry targets communities of color. In 2013, black children and teens saw twice as many ads for sugary drinks than white children and teens,” said Sarah Wandler, a social worker at Odessa Brown’s Children Clinic who helps administer the Fresh Bucks Rx program. “That’s why I strongly support the inclusion of Fresh Bucks to receive funding from this tax on sugary drinks, as well as the other effective public health and nutrition programs targeted to help communities disproportionately affected by the diabetes and obesity epidemics.”

“I am proud to work alongside such a diverse coalition to help improve young peoples’ opportunities in our city. I support Seattle’s proposed tax on sugary drinks because it will help protect kids from the negative health consequences driven by the soda industry’s marketing of sugary drinks,” said Sebrena Burr, who serves as president of the Greater Seattle PTSA but is quoted here as an individual advocate. “Beyond the merits of the sugary drinks tax itself, the revenue generated from the tax will benefit several critical education programs in Seattle, including $5 million in the first five years to fund Seattle Colleges 13th Year Promise Scholarship Program.”

Key facts on sugary drinks:

  • More than a third of American adults are obese, and today’s children are already our most overweight generation. Sugar causes cravings just like and other addictive substance.
  • Compared to children who rarely drink sugar-sweetened beverages, children who drink at least one serving of sugary drinks per day have 55 percent increased odds of being overweight or obese.
  • Added sugar in drinks is the main contributor of added sugar in our diet
  • Children who consume sugary drinks are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults.
  • A third of children are predicted to develop diabetes and cutting sugar is a proven way to lower their risk. And the soda industry is a part of the problem because it targets children, especially preschoolers. A sugary drinks tax provides multiple benefits: one, it is a proven way to reduce consumption, two, increasing funding for healthy food access, early learning and education.
  • TV ads for regular soda and energy drinks each made up one-quarter of all ads viewed by preschoolers and children in 2013.
  • Preschoolers and children saw 31 percent and 23 percent more TV ads for sports drinks in 2013 than in 2010, respectively.