Seattle mayor compares sugar to tobacco in sugary-drinks tax discussion

By: KIRO 7 News Staff

Updated:

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks.

The sugary-drinks tax would include regular soda, Monster energy drinks, Sunny D, Gatorade, Starbucks bottled Frappuccinos and Arizona iced teas. The tax would be levied on distributors.

>> Related: Seattle mayor proposes new tax on sodas, sugary drinks

About a month after the mayor’s state of the city, when he announced the proposed tax, people are still questioning whether it would be effective.

“Sugar is as bad as cigarettes in how we consume it,” Murray said during The Seattle Times political podcast.

Seattle Times reporter Bob Young looked into health research on sugary drinks after the mayor’s comparison of compared sugary drinks to tobacco.  

University of Washington professor and executive director of Healthy Food America Kim Krieger said that evidence from controlled experiments shows that too much added sugar leads to obesity. But evidence is not as founded when it comes sugary drinks causing diabetes or heart disease.

Dietitian and consultant to the food and beverage industries Lisa Katic believes that a sugary-drinks tax is misguided.

“Why are we taxing sugar-sweetened beverages when most of our calories come from burgers and sandwiches?” she told The Seattle Times. “I wish we could look at the big picture. If only we could focus on what we eat, portion size and cooking at home.”

Nearly half of Americans drink at least one glass of soda daily, according to a Gallup poll.

>> Related: 5 big Seattle ideas that voters rejected because of tax increases

Last November, five municipalities, including San Francisco and the county that includes Chicago, approved special taxes on sugary drinks – backed by Bloomberg’s charitable organization. Soda consumption has been declining, though sales of other sweetened drinks, such as sports beverages and bottled teas have grown, and obesity rates keep climbing.

Murray’s local tax, which would be put on distributors, is meant to fund education programs and “eliminate the opportunity gap between white students and African American/black students and other historically under-represented students of color," Murray said.

Murray believes that the Seattle tax would raise $16 million annually to fund programs recommended by the Education Summit Advisory Group.

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