Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg found out firsthand how unpopular laws banning sugary drinks could be. Not only did he encounter strong opposition from those who felt his proposed prohibition on large sodas was an attack on liberty, he also heard from those critics who felt New Yorkers would only purchase multiple beverages or find another way to circumvent the mandate.
While his attempt was ultimately unsuccessful, other municipal leaders have made their own attempts to curb cola consumption.
Among the latest is Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s plan to add three cents per ounce to the cost of every sugary drink sold in the city, an initiative that would raise an estimated $400 million over the next five years.
City council members, however, have not reacted favorably to soda taxes in the past. The legislative body voted down two similar plans proposed by the previous mayor. A number of activists, including Jeff Stier of the National Center for Public Policy Research, have voiced their concerns about a tax that would roughly double the price of an average beverage.
“Soda tax proponents are asking us to suspend normal assumptions about human behavior,” he said, “and simply assume that people who reduce soda consumption to avoid the tax, won’t just make their own sugary drinks and won’t replace the calories with other high-calorie foods or drinks.”