The DC Council saw a controversial new bill that would place a higher tax on sodas and other sugary drinks introduced on Tuesday.
Titled the Nutrition Equity Amendment Act of 2021, the legislation, which was introduced by Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, proposes adding a 1.5 cent-per-ounce excise tax on sugary beverages such as sodas and energy drinks.
The newly introduced tax would replace the current eight percent sales tax on sugary drinks, and would be paid by the distributer or retailer, and could be reflected to the buyers.
The move aims at promoting healthier beverage options by discouraging customers from consuming sugary drinks, which would primarily help the city’s low-income neighborhoods better combat obesity and other chronic diseases associated with sugary drinks.
“One thing that COVID-19 has made abundantly clear is that we need to get serious about addressing health inequities in the District,” Nadeau said in a press release. “In drafting this bill, I brought together members of the communities impacted by health disparities, health experts and advocates to identify areas where public health interventions and investments can make a difference in the health and lives of our communities.”
According to Nadeau, the bill would also play a key role in providing equitable access to nutritious food for District residents experiencing homelessness as the city’s shelters would be required to serve meals in line with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
In addition, there would be grants to support nutrition education, cooking lessons, and gardens at family shelters and transitional housing, as part of the bill.
“Knowing that the consumption of sugary drinks is directly linked to major health risks and that the beverage industry is targeting their ads at communities of color, we have to intervene and counter that impact,” Nadeau said.
A similar bill came before the DC Council two years ago, but failed to pass due to strong reactions from the soda industry.