9/20/2017, noon | Updated on 9/20/2017, noon
The Sweetened Beverage Tax goes beyond sugar and sweetened drinks like soda pop. But the new tax applies to bottled ...
Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle along with health care providers address the health and economic benefits of the Sweetened Beverage Tax during a recent press conference. Photo Credit: Cook County Health & Hospitals System

Preckwinkle, Health Experts Address the Health and Economic Benefits of the Penny-Per-Ounce Tax

By Christopher Shuttlesworth

With the controversy surrounding the Sweetened Beverage Tax, which took effect on Aug. 2, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle along with leading health care providers held a press conference to address the health and economic benefits of the penny-per-ounce tax.

The Sweetened Beverage Tax goes beyond sugar and sweetened drinks like soda pop. But the new tax applies to bottled and canned beverages, diet soda, ready-to drink sweetened coffees and teas and sports and energy drinks.

Elissa Bassler, executive director for the Illinois Public Health Institute acknowledged that new taxes are never popular, but combating national healthcare epidemics are vital.

Health-focused groups, such as the American Heart Association and the American Medical Association are hoping the beverage tax curves the national epidemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Julie Mirostaw, senior director of Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association, said recent data proves that “children who drink one sugar beverage per day as opposed to not having any will increase their risk of diabetes by close to 60 percent.”

“This is not a trivial matter when obesity related diseases cost the US HealthCare system $190 billion annually,” Bassler said.

“Addressing an issue that drives 21 percent of medical spending is critical. The Sweetened Beverage Tax will reduce the burden of these chronic illnesses and the related health care cost, which is swallowed by taxpayers via the Cook County Healthcare system.”

The Sweetened Beverage Tax was approved by Illinois Cook County commissioners on Nov. 10, 2016. Frank Shuftan, a spokesman for Preckwinkle, said the county lost $20 million in taxes in July of 2017, but hopes to collect $67.5 million of tax revenue this year and $200.6 million in 2018. In the absence off the $20 million revenue, county layoffs were enforced.

Retail companies like the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) sued Cook County in June of 2017, alleging the Sweetened Beverage Tax as “unconstitutional.” After the judge dismissed the lawsuit, the merchant association requested an appeal to hold the tax.

Rob Karr, who is the president and CEO of IRMA, said the Sweetened Beverage Tax is a “very poor, economic tax policy because it shifts sales out of the county and into other areas and deprives people of their jobs and benefits.”

During the Sept. 12th press conference, Preckwinkle said the main goal of the tax is to limit the bad debt in the health and hospital system and to decrease the consumption of sweetened beverages among consumers, particularly young people.

“Whether you drink sweet beverages or not, you’re already paying for the health care costs for those who do through taxes you pay now,” Bassler said. “We will remain vigilant in our policies that can improve health and wellbeing of our communities, families and children.”