Seattle City Council one step closer to taxing soda, other sugary drinks

VIDEO: Soda tax health debate

The Seattle City Council is one step closer to taxing soda and other sugary drinks, while excluding diet sodas.

Judy Simon, a clinical dietitian with University of Washington Medical Center, said there is a link to consumption of sugary drinks and weight. Part of the problem, she said, is that people are drinking more of these drinks. But she said it’s not just the extra calories you have to worry about.

“Excess sugar in someone's diet can cause metabolic changes and this could contribute to development of diseases like diabetes and heart disease,” Simon explained.

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That's partially why a committee of the city council moved forward on a plan that would tax 1.75 cents per ounce

on distributors of sweetened drinks.

Business owners are against the proposal.

“This disproportionate tax of 1.75 cents per ounce is going to kill the businesses absolutely,” said a business owner who spoke out at the council meeting.

Distributors would likely pass the tax on to consumers.

Teamsters, who deliver these drinks, worry it could cost them their jobs if people cut back.

“This tax threatens to create deep economic insecurities for them and their families and it's not right,” said Pete Lam with Teamsters Local 174.

KIRO 7 asked Simon whether hitting people in their pocketbooks works.

“It seems like the trend is that consumption is going down,” Simon said. “What I don’t think we have yet is the data of the cause and effect -- are we seeing obesity rates going down?”

Still, Simon said it's a start.

“We forget there are other foods that are very high in sugar,” Simon said. “Those would be the coffee drinks like Frappuccinos or snack foods people are eating.”

Taxing sugary drinks could raise $15 million, which would go to educational programs for low income kids.

The council is expected to vote on the plan Monday.