CHICAGO -- Public outcry in Chicago and surrounding Cook County, Ill., has been heard: The Cook County Board overwhelmingly voted Oct. 11 to repeal its 1-cent-per-ounce sweetened-beverage tax. The decision is also a victory for retailers, because many feared the tax was a model for similar measures in other markets.
The 15-2 repeal vote by the Cook County Board of Commissioners came only 10 weeks after the surcharge was levied on all sweetened soft drinks, including ones made with noncaloric sugar substitutes. The rollback, expected to begin Dec. 1, ends a fierce lobbying battle that pitted grocery and convenience stores, restaurants and other soda-selling businesses against health advocates and parties that hoped to raise $200 million per year in revenue from the tax.
The American Beverage Association heavily funded a campaign to end the tax, while billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other health advocates ran a counteroperation supporting the surcharge.
Enacted Aug. 2, the tax added 1 cent per ounce to the cost of packaged drinks sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners. Recent reports suggest the sale of carbonated soft drinks have declined 30% in the county since the tax was enacted. The tax was expected to bring in $67.5 million this year and $200.6 million in 2018.