Suffredin- Changing County Government  
 

Accountability
Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine

 

   
 
   
   
 
   
     
  Office phone numbers:  
   
 
 

Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

   
 

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.

   
  Cook County was created on January 15, 1831 and named after Daniel P. Cook, Member of Congress and the first Attorney from the State of Illinois.
   
     
     
     



Finding hope, promise in the wreckage of the Cook County soda tax

Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Chicago Tribune
by Eric Zorn

Was it really so unreasonable for Cook County to try to add a “sin tax” to sugary drinks?

I’m asking now that the hugely unpopular tax appears dead — Tuesday’s committee vote at the County Board presaged a full repeal Wednesday — and perspectives are less clouded by rage and indignation.

Answer: No.

High-calorie, nutrition-free pop is bad for you — bad for your teeth, bad for your heart, bad for your weight, bad for your blood pressure. Public health officials refer to it as “liquid candy” and note that it plays no role in a balanced diet.

And though drinking sweetened beverages in moderation isn’t a sin so much as it is a luxury, sugary soda is a ripe and fair target for extra taxes similar to those governments add to cigarettes and alcohol. Heck, Chicago has been levying an additional 3 percent soft-drink tax since the mid-1990s, a fact many residents aren’t even aware of.

Since 2007, Chicago has also charged a nickel tax on bottled water, a luxury beverage that’s not even bad for you.

Setting aside the questions of whether Cook County really needs the money and whether officials should have identified more progressive sources of revenue, such a tax is, in principle, a mainstream idea.

The reasons it’s now almost certain to die just three months after it was enacted are well-known, but I’ll rank the top four for you:

1. It’s too steep. A penny an ounce takes a noticeable bite out of every drink purchase, particularly bulk and discount purchases.

2. It’s in our faces. For legal reasons, the new county tax appears as a line item on receipts. If cigarette, alcohol and gasoline taxes were also line items instead of buried in the price, customers would be in open revolt.

3. It’s illogical. Milkshake fat bombs and high-sugar fruit juices are exempt, as are sweetened coffee drinks made by baristas. And because it applies to sweetened beverages, not just sugary beverages, artificially sweetened diet drinks are also subject to the tax.

4. It feels born of a lie. The public health arguments in favor of taxing certain soft drinks, noted above, are strong. But they’ve sounded like afterthoughts or excuses rather than sincere motivating factors. This was particularly true given the inclusion of diet pop.

In all, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s initiative was such a PR disaster that it not only may end her political career (she faces re-election next year), it may also block the spread of beverage taxes to other cities and counties. Officials elsewhere are likely to look at the polling done here and drop the soda tax idea quickly rather than learn from our mistakes on how to do it right — smaller, narrower and more honestly.

The best thing to come out of this Cook County misadventure is a heightened awareness of the ill effects of excessive sugary-drink consumption, especially among children.

Some have argued that everyone already knew that pop is bad for you.

Vaguely, abstractly, yes, perhaps. But the belated, furious and ultimately futile campaign to support the tax brought forward the research that links regular ingestion of “liquid candy” to an elevated risk for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, gout, tooth decay and other ailments.

“A study that followed 40,000 men for two decades found that those who averaged one can of a sugary beverage per day had a 20 percent higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack than men who rarely consumed sugary drinks,” according to a fact sheet from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Doctors everywhere, particularly those who deal with low-income populations often targeted by soda peddlers, strongly support efforts to reduce consumption. Thanks to this ad campaign backing the tax, funded in large part by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, their voices have been heard.

Those voices can change norms. They can persuade parents not to serve their kids so much sugar water — including, yes, fruit juices that masquerade as healthy choices — and maybe cut back a bit themselves, even if there’s no extra tax to act as a scourge.

But that’s only if Bloomberg, the physicians and others who’ve been blaring out the health warnings build on the momentum they’ve created rather than pack up and go away mad.

A public conditioned to believe that such concerns are genuine and urgent is far more likely to support a “sin tax” on soda next time, on the off chance there ever is a next time.

ericzorn@gmail.com

Twitter @EricZorn



Recent Headlines

Retail group drops lawsuit against Cook County soda pop tax after its repeal
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Chicago Tribune

Cook County prosecutors release 6 years of charging data
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Chicago Sun-Times

Toni Preckwinkle on Soda Tax Repeal, County Budget Shortfall
Monday, October 16, 2017
Crain's Chicago Business

How Trump's Obamacare subsidy cuts could affect your county
Monday, October 16, 2017
Chicago Tribune

Fired sheriff’s officer wins lawsuit; could undo dozens of firings
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Chicago Sun-Times

How to Win Against Big Soda
Sunday, October 15, 2017
New York Times

Cook County soda tax repeal garners mixed reactions from Evanston restaurants
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Daily Northwestern

The soda tax was repealed, but Cook County still has to find a way to fund the government
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Chicago Reader

Inspector general's report alleges nepotism, political influence in south suburban sanitary district
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Chicago Tribune

7-Eleven settles lawsuit with customer over soda tax charge
Friday, October 13, 2017
Chicago Tribune

Cook County officials faced with $200M budget gap after pop tax repeal
Friday, October 13, 2017
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County officials faced with $200M budget gap after pop tax repeal
Friday, October 13, 2017
Chicago Sun-Times

The Week in Review: Soda Tax Fizzles Out
Friday, October 13, 2017
WTTW The Week in Review

Justice Department latest sanctuary city move on Chicago, Cook County
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Chicago Sun-Times

Finding hope, promise in the wreckage of the Cook County soda tax
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Chicago Tribune

Cook County pop tax one step away from repeal after 15-1 test vote
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Chicago Tribune

Cook County Board repeals soda tax
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Chicago Sun-Times

Why I voted to keep Cook County's soda tax
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Chicago Tribune

Morning Spin: Vote to repeal pop tax expected today
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Chicago Tribune

Cook County officials vote 15-1 to repeal sugary drink tax
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
ABC 7 Chicago

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.
^ TOP