House appropriations chair Rosa DeLauro to introduce federal excise tax on sugary drinks

Rosa DeLauro

The SWEET Act would tax sugary drinks up to $.03 per ounce

Federal legislation levying an excise tax on sugary drinks could be introduced as soon as this week, according to Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, who made the announcement at the 2021 Sugary Drink Summit convened by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The tax in the soon-to-be-introduced SWEET Act is tiered. Cans or bottles of soda with less than 7.5 grams of sugars per 12 ounces would be exempt from the tax, but drinks with more than 7.5 grams but less than 30 grams per 12 ounces would be taxed at two cents per ounce. Drinks with more than 30 grams of sugars per 12 ounces would be taxed at a rate of three cents per ounce. For context, a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola has 39 grams of sugars.

Similar taxes on soda have been adopted in Boulder, Oakland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, the Navajo Nation, and other jurisdictions. “Soda and other sugary drinks are marketed as life-affirming elixirs that bring happiness and even health, but the reality is that they promote obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems,” said CSPI president Dr. Peter G. Lurie. “As we’ve seen in the several jurisdictions that have adopted them, soda taxes can make a dent in consumption. And we need a decrease in consumption to reduce the toll of soda-related diseases.”

Revenue from the SWEET Act, estimated to be around $18 billion per year, would help schools curb sugary foods in the School Breakfast Program. The leading source of added sugars in school meals is itself a sugary drink: flavored milk.

DeLauro’s announcement came as some 500 community organizers, public health professionals, academic researchers, and policymakers gathered virtually for the first day of a three-day Sugary Drink Summit on the theme of “Building Community, Building Health.”