What the Cook County Soda Tax Means when Visiting the Windy City

Cook County's soda tax leverages a one cent per ounce tax on sweetened beverages. The Cook County Soda Tax has had a lengthy and difficult road to enforcement, but the outcome is a 1 penny per ounce tax on cook county sweetened beverages. Now anytime you visit Chicago to enjoy the city or take the airport on vacation, you can expect to pay a little bit more.

The road to enforcement was a tricky one, with initial plans to enforce the tax starting on July 1, 2017. However, a last-minute appeal of the law and temporary injunction forced the county to delay the collection of this new tax for one month. Now that the tax is in place, the consequences are immediate for visitors and businesses alike.

The 1-Cent per Ounce Tax is Required on All Sweetened Beverages Sold in Cook County

The new tax requires businesses to collect a 1 cent tax per ounce on all sweetened beverages sold in Cook County. This does not just cover the can of coke you buy from a vending machine, but also the sweetened lemonade you buy from a vendor or pre-mixed coffee drink from the gas station. That’s because the tax is much broader than many assume- it applies not just to soft drinks, but to any sweetened beverage. There are exceptions to the new tax being collected on certain “sweet” beverages, such as 100% fruit juices, and, at least for the time being, hand blended beverages. Also excluded from the tax are powders used to make beverages, like sports drinks.

The list of beverages included in the new tax is still longer than those exempted and includes surprising inclusions. For example, because the tax targets “sweetened” beverages, not specific calories or sugar content, the penny-per-ounce tax will apply to diet beverages or those with 0 calories, that are sweetened in other ways. Further, vitamin waters that are sweetened are also included because of the phrasing of the new law.

Remember that the beverage tax only applies to products sold in Cook County, so many businesses surrounding Cook County are hoping that the cost of more expensive beverages will help drive some extra business their way. While there is no denying that sweetened beverages can often time be consumed to excess, careful moderation is even more important now that you will feel the extra pressure to your wallet as well as your waistline.

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