Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Soda Tax Leads to Skyrocketing Prices, Even for Diet Drinks

Philadelphia’s new soda tax is causing shock for customers who are noting major price hikes for their favorite beverages.

Most of the time, when a new law is passed, whoever designed the law meant well.

They probably meant well when lawmakers passed Philadelphia’s new soda tax, too. But some consumers are having a hard time seeing the good through all of the sticker shock.

For one thing, when there’s a new soda tax, it only applies to sugary soft drinks as an incentive for people to reduce their intake of all of that evil sugar. But in Philadelphia, the new soda tax applies to artifically-sweetened sodas, too.

That means soft drinks like Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, not to mention the varions “zero” versions of soft drinks and other low-calorie varieties of soft drinks that don’t contain sugar, still get taxed.

A typical soda tax also includes sports and energy drinks in which sugars can jack up calories. Things like soy and almond milks, alternatives to regular milk for people who either have allergies or like to pretend they do, are also taxed.

In Philadelphia, the new tax adds 1.5¢ per ounce to the price of certain drinks. One-and-a-half cents doesn’t sound like a lot of money, does it?

In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t.

But when applied to certain products that come in large sizes or multi-packs, it can add up far more quickly than consumers anticipated.

Your 20-ounce soda now costs an additional 30¢.

A Monster Energy Drink 4-pack — that’s four 16-ounce cans — costs 96¢ more.

A customer at a Save-A-Lot snapped a picture of a 12-pack of diet green tea that normally costs $4.99. With a tax of $3.04, it’s now $8.03.

But perhaps most ridiculous is one customer’s experience described by WPVI-TV 6:

Chuck Andrews picked up a $1.77-gallon jug of tea, got home and looked at his receipt.

“When I read the receipt I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. I paid more in tax than I did for the product,'” Andrews said.

The tax on the $1.77 gallon of tea was $1.92 cents.

It’s one thing to make a point to customers about the dangers of sugary drinks. You can even make the case that diet drinks that don’t contain sugars are still less healthy than water.

But when the tax on something costs more than the something itself, you have a law that’s completely and unnecessarily out of control.

They’d have done better to add a penny sales tax on all non-water beverages — it sounds like they nearly targeted everything as it is — over a per-ounce tax. They’d have still raised revenue but they wouldn’t have people leaving the city limits to buy their drinks elsewhere.

Oh, and by the way, the mayor told the television station that because the tax is imposed on the distribution of sweetened beverages from manufacturers to retailers, the distributors “don’t have to pass it on to customers.”

Did anyone honestly think it wouldn’t be passed on to consumers?

You don’t even have to have an ounce of common sense to see that it was the customers who were going to have to pay that price.

Faced with that kind of sticker shock, there are going to be more people, I’m afraid, who just go out of their way to get the drinks they want elsewhere rather than just giving them up for water.

Stubbornness, unfortunately, will almost always beat healthier living.

If you were faced with price hikes like that, would you surrender to water or find a different way to purchase the drinks you like?

1 Comment

  1. Huh. I didn’t realize this would apply to nut milks, as well. I purchase unsweetened almond milk. I wonder if that would also be taxed like the diet drinks are… (Oh, and for the record, I don’t drink animal milk now because I’m vegan but I stopped drinking it because it seemed to increase my incidents of acid reflux. People drink non-dairy milks for a variety of reasons. 😉 )

    In any event, I imagine that the tax will be revisited and reconsidered now that the legislators can see the results.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.