Philly’s soda tax

Soda tax math: What a 1.5-cent-per-ounce levy could mean for your wallet

We don’t know how much of the tax distributors will pass on — but here’s the worst case scenario.

Soda tax
Wikimedia Commons

Philadelphia’s soda tax got over a huge hurdle last night when City Council OK’d a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on beverages with both real and artificial sugar. A formal vote is coming next week, but last night’s move shows a deal’s been made.

So what’s that mean for your wallet, especially if you’re a frequent consumer of sodas, whether it’s a can of Mountain Dew a day or a Super Big Gulp of Diet Coke?

It’s hard to know for sure what the exact impact will be. This tax isn’t on the stores who sell these items, like the $2-per-pack cigarette tax is. It’s on distributors who may pass on the entire price of the tax, or may not. Because Philadelphia is the first major city in America to likely have a soda tax, we don’t exactly know how much will be passed on. (FWIW, Berkeley, Calif. is the only other city to enact a soda tax. There, distributors passed along about half.)

The worst case scenario for consumers is that distributors would pass along the entire tax. So we’ll calculate what that means for you based on the beverages you frequently buy.

Cans and small bottles


12 oz. can

Current cost: 99 cents at Wawa

New cost: $1.17

Drink one can of soda a day?

Current cost per year: $361.35

New cost per year: $427.05

16 oz. bottle

Current cost: $1.15 at Wawa

New cost: $1.39

Drink one bottle of soda a day?

Current cost per year: $419.75

New cost per year: $507.35

12-pack of cans

Current cost: On sale at Acme now is four 12-packs for $12

New cost: $20.64 for four 12-packs (An increase of $2.16 per 12-pack.)

12 oz. Red Bull

Current cost: On sale at Wawa for two for $5

New cost: $5.36 for two

32 oz. bottle of Gatorade

Current cost: On sale at Acme for 88 cents per bottle

New cost: $1.36 per bottle

Two-liter bottles of soda and gallons of tea

Shelves are stocked with sugary drinks at Cousins Grocery Store in Philadelphia.

Shelves are stocked with sugary drinks at Cousins Grocery Store in Philadelphia.

Anna Orso/Billy Penn

Two-liter bottle of soda

Current cost: $1.29 at Acme

New cost: $2.31

Gallon of sweetened iced tea

Current cost: $2.37 at Wal-Mart

New cost: $4.29

Fountain drinks

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 8.32.52 AM

Sodas at 7-Eleven

20 oz. Gulp

Current cost: $1.19

New cost: $1.49

30 oz. Big Gulp

Current cost: $1.29

New cost: $1.74

Drink a Big Gulp every day?

Current cost for a year: $448.95

New cost for a year: $635.10

40 oz. Super Big Gulp

Current cost: $1.49

New cost: $2.49

50 oz. Double Gulp

Current cost: $1.79

New cost: $2.54

Want some more? Explore other Philly’s soda tax stories.

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Jim Kenney