Tax repealed, sweetened drink prices drop

Sarah Sandlow, News Editor

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Junior Thomas Bradley buys a soda from the cafeteria. The soda’s price was affected by the Cook County Sweetened Beverage Tax. After the tax repeal, the drinks in the cafeteria were lowered to their original price.

The Cook County Sweetened Beverage Tax implemented on Aug. 2, 2017 was repealed on Dec. 1, 2017. The tax was placed on all sweetened beverages, including those in Glenbrook North’s cafeteria and vending machines. The tax also increased prices by one cent per ounce.

According to the Sweetened Beverage Tax Ordinance passed by the Cook County Board of Commissioners, the tax of one cent per ounce was applied to sweetened beverages because drinks with high amounts of added sugar could cause health issues including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Larry Suffredin, Cook County Commissioner for the 13th district, said in a phone interview that the tax was meant to raise $200 million to cover the cost of the healthcare system and the public safety system including the courts, the jails and police protection. The tax was imposed on sweetened beverages, including juices that were less than 100 percent natural juice. Alcoholic beverages were not included in the tax.

“One of the things that happened after the tax was imposed [was] a debate on the question of, ‘Are these drinks healthy for you?’” said Suffredin. “I think that the absolute consensus was that they are not good for you, but then there became a discussion of, ‘Does [the] government have a right to tell you what’s good for you or not good for you?’”

Suffredin said he did not vote to repeal the beverage tax, but members of the Cook County Board of Commissioners “seemed to believe that the pressure they were receiving from large soda companies … was the reason they wanted to no longer have the tax.”

According to Rebecca Cohen, district manager of Quest Food Management Services, all bottled sweetened drink prices in the GBN cafeteria were raised at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year by 25 cents to comply with the tax of one cent per ounce. Although water is not included in the tax requirements, cafeteria water prices increased because Quest had not increased water prices in a few years. Most bottled drinks are around 20 ounces, but prices went up by 25 cents due to the tax and additional cost to Quest. All bottled drink prices were lowered by 25 cents on Dec. 1 with the exception of water. Coffee bar drink prices will remain the same, as they are made by employees and therefore not included in the tax.

Daniel Stein, co-owner of Mark Vend Co., the company that manages all of GBN’s vending machines, said in a phone interview that all sweetened beverages that fell within the tax requirements in the vending machines underwent a price increase of one cent per ounce when the tax was enforced on Aug. 2. On Nov. 7, prices for all items affected by the tax were lowered by the same amount they were raised by.

Senior Anna Starobinets said she does not usually drink sweetened beverages, but she supports the tax repeal.

“[The tax repeal] allows people to drink whatever they want … without making them pay more,” said Starobinets. “While soda taxes were made to promote healthy drinking, … adding [more money to the price] is just going to make people angry. It’s not going to make them stop drinking soda.”

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Tax repealed, sweetened drink prices drop