Rhode Island Considers Soda Tax

May 24, 2010

Rhode Island is considering a soda tax reports Tax Analysts:

Proponents of a bill to levy a new tax on soft drinks in Rhode Island told the House Finance Committee on May 18 that the bill would help cut down on childhood obesity and related health problems.

H 7368 would require consumers to pay a 5-cent tax on small soft drinks and 10 cents on soft drinks larger than 20 ounces.

The bill generally defines soft drinks as “any nonalcoholic beverage, whether naturally or artificially flavored, whether carbonated or noncarbonated, sold for human consumption containing sugar, corn syrup or any other high calorie sweetener.” The definition includes cola and other flavored drinks, fruit and vegetable drinks containing 50 percent or less of natural fruit and vegetable juices, and all other drinks and beverages commonly referred to as soft drinks.

… Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D), the measure’s chief sponsor, said the bill is part of the Rhode Island Medical Society’s initiative to combat obesity. Steven R. DeToy, director of public and government affairs for the Rhode Island Medical Society, told lawmakers that sugary beverages are not the only contributors to obesity, “but they are a major factor.”

The Rhode Island proposal pops up just as The Washington Post reports D.C. Council member Cheh’s proposal for a one cent per ounce soda tax not likely:

A majority of D.C. Council members signaled their opposition Thursday to a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on soda, probably killing the proposal for the year.

… But about 3 p.m. Thursday, council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) announced during council budget talks that the soda tax would not be included in the fiscal 2011 budget because it lacked support. Gray said members will search for savings in the budget to fund the Healthy Schools initiative, which has an estimated $6 million annual price tag.

Below is a map of where state food taxes and the tax applied to soft drinks diverge—though few states have actually targeted soda using an excise tax. Most of the listed rates are sales taxes not applied to food. Although Arkansas has a $.21 per gallon tax and West Virginia has a $.80 per gallon tax (for a 2002 state summary on soft drink distributor and manufacturer taxes see here).

More on soda taxes here and here. More on obesity taxes here.

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