Sugary drink tax earns the city $4 million, but is it working?

May 10, 2018, 8:09 AM | Updated: 8:52 am
seattle grocery, sugary drink tax, soda tax, sugary beverage tax, taxes, carbon...
The Seattle soda tax went into effect Jan. 1, 2018. (Dyer Oxley, MyNorthwest)
(Dyer Oxley, MyNorthwest)

The little tags at grocery stores informing customers of higher soda prices are ubiquitous, as are the looks of irritation every time somebody is reminded of Seattle’s sugary drink tax.

We’re now five months into the 1.75-cent-per-fluid-ounce sugary drink tax. So far, the city has made $4 million according to the Seattle Times — $4,082,015, to be precise.

“We need to toot the city’s horn for a change,” said KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney. “Because they predicted it was going to raise about $14 million. The tax raised $4 million in its first quarter. So it’s pretty close, which doesn’t happen that often.”

RELATED: Why some sugary drinks are exempt from Seattle’s new sugar tax

The money will pay for healthy-food programs, community-college scholarships, administrative costs, and early-learning programs. Part of the revenue will be spent on studying the tax; how it impacts people’s behavior.

A University of Washington team will use the data to research sugary-beverage consumption in children from low-income families.

“Hopefully when they give them the results,” joked KIRO Radio’s John Curley. “The city doesn’t have to race and find another opposing study to prove something different.”

Proponents argued the sugary drink tax would discourage people from buying sugary drinks and redirect the funds to positive ends. Opponents like store owners and unionized beverage-industry workers suggested it would unfairly hurt low-income families. The measure could be seen as an elaborate loop of money because the revenue is slated for low-income families.

Does the sugary drink tax hurt the people?

“That’s called a transfer,” joked Curley. “Fifty-nine percent of those who consume sugary drinks are Hispanic or black. But it’s not about the color of the person’s skin, it has to do with education. If you only have high school education, you tend to drink one or two a day. So they’re taking the money from you now, running it through the bureaucracy, and then spitting it out through a couple of programs that may or may not benefit you.”

“Well,” countered Tom. “They’re designed to benefit you under the healthy food program’s idea. If it impacts those particular communities, it can help those communities if they raise the money.”

Curley isn’t buying it.

“Rich white people drink lattes, which are exempt (from this tax). We didn’t tax the rich white people, we taxed the poor … because they drink more unhealthy drinks, even though a latte has more sugar in it than some of those drinks.”

“I don’t understand that part,” agreed Tom. “Is there a dairy lobby in this town?”

Racial dynamics and radio bickering aside, the primary issue with the sugary drink tax seems to hedge on long-term health. UW researchers plan to follow up with the low-income kids in their study every few months.

“The thing with the University of Washington study that will be interesting is: Does it reduce obesity?” Curley wondered.

“Does the kid’s weight go down because they’re not drinking as much soda? They’re eating just as many fries and potato chips and having just as many burgers. So maybe they’ve gone from Coke to a Diet Coke. But most of their calorie intake is still from fat.”

John Curley and Shari Elliker on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
  • listen to tom and curleyTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 3pm for John Curley and Shari Elliker.

John Curley and Shari Elliker

John Curley and Shari Elliker

songs, composer...
John Curley and Shari Elliker

Two songs (one beautiful, one annoying) by Jacob Ryan Smith

Just a few weeks ago, Jacob Ryan Smith, an extremely talented composer and lyricist, got a call from John Curley. The rest is radio history.
2 days ago
children, substitute teachers...
John Curley and Shari Elliker

How should Washington parents handle being asked to step in as substitute teachers?

KIRO Radio host John Curley provides some insight into how he'd handle the recent need for substitute teachers in Washington.
2 days ago
truckers, kindness...
John Curley

‘The contagiousness of kindness’ is real, says John Curley

John Curley was inspired by someone else's act of kindness and decided to take 15 burritos to the truck drivers who are stuck while I-90 is closed.
7 days ago
Republicans, redistricting...
John Curley and Shari Elliker

Rep. Walsh says limiting emergency powers is among key issues for legislative session

State Rep. Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen) joined the John Curley & Shari Elliker Show to provide an update on the legislative session that started Monday.
8 days ago
John Curley (and his dogs) trek through the snow to get to the outhouse....
John Curley and Shari Elliker

John Curley describes his trek to the outhouse in 4 feet of snow

KIRO Radio host John Curley says there has been about 4 feet of snow at his cabin, which means it's a journey to get to his outhouse.
22 days ago
seattle city council, 10 minutes...
John Curley and Shari Elliker

John & Shari support 10-minute limit for Seattle councilmember speeches

The new rule for Seattle City Councilmembers is that they're not allowed to talk about anything for longer than 10 minutes.
30 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Sugary drink tax earns the city $4 million, but is it working?