The 2016 election continues to prove exceedingly bad for Coke, Dr Pepper, and Pepsi. Two days after soda taxes passed by solid margins in four more U.S. cities, the country’s second-most-populous county has added a penny-per-ounce measure of its own. Commissioners in Cook County, home to the Chicago metro area and about 5 million people, narrowly approved it yesterday, making it the seventh local government in America where drinks will get taxed for being too sugary — and also easily the largest, with more than double the population of the six others combined.
The board voted 9-8 in favor, with the majority swayed by the $221 million a year the special levy is estimated to bring in, enough to balance the county’s budget. The tax also applies to diet sodas and other beverages that contain zero-calorie sweeteners. Opponents like Big Soda’s lobby group and the local Cook County Coalition Against Beverage Taxes — a bloc of grocers and convenience stores like 7-Eleven — called the measure a “regressive tax on working families” that they said would result in higher grocery bills. (The actual measure levies the tax on distributors; it’s up to them whether they pass the cost along to consumers, though that likelihood is probably decent.)
Soda-tax supporters have cheered the news all week, pretty sure this is finally the utopia Michael Bloomberg and others envisioned when they started campaigning against soda consumption as a public-health threat a half-decade ago. Bloomberg, who invested more than $20 million of his own money to pass this week’s five measures, released a statement celebrating it as “a major victory for American public health” as well as “a very encouraging sign of things to come.” Perhaps a touch passive-aggressively, he also said that an idea “written off not many years ago” has now “turned into a movement,” and it’s clear “this is just a beginning.”