Philadelphia became the first major American city with a soda consumption tax on Thursday despite a multimillion-dollar campaign by the beverage industry to block it. The City Council gave final approval to a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary and diet beverages. The tax is set to take effect Jan. 1. Only Berkeley, California, has a similar law. Consumption tax proposals have failed in more than 30 cities and states in recent years, including twice in Philadelphia. Such plans are typically criticized as disproportionately affecting the poor, who are more likely to consume sugary drinks, the AP reports. Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney sold the council on the idea with a plan to spend most of the estimated $90 million in new tax revenue next year to pay for prekindergarten, community schools, and recreation centers.
"Thanks to the tireless advocacy of educators, parents, rec center volunteers, and so many others, Philadelphia made a historic investment in our neighborhoods and in our education system today," the mayor said. The American Beverage Association called the soda tax "discriminatory and highly unpopular." The tax, which passed 13-4, was a hard-fought win for the city. The soda industry spent millions of dollars in advertising against it, arguing it will be costly to consumers. The plan also attracted national attention and dollars, with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Texas billionaires John and Laura Arnold, advocates for less consumption of sugary drinks, funding ads in support. (This California city has told servers not to offer soda to kids.)