Cook County hits students in their wallets
BY Sarah smail
Whether students are craving a Coke, a Gatorade or even a frappuccino, they are paying even more than they did last spring, thanks to the new Cook County sweetened beverage tax. Sweetened beverages now have an additional tax of $0.01 per ounce, making a 20 ounce drink 20 cents more expensive.
The extra penny-per-ounce tax is applicable to every sweetened beverage purchase in Cook County, whether it’s a Vitamin Water, an Arizona or a juice blend — even drinks that are diet or use artificial sweeteners.
The combined revenue from the 5.2 million Cook County residents and visitors to the Chicago area is expected to generate $200 million a year. The revenue will be used to pay for everything from county health and hospital services to county law enforcement. “This is considered a sin tax. Governments generally tax things like cigarettes, alcohol, things that tend to be looked upon as bad for you. If they tried to tax it on water or bread, the outcry would be far bigger than it is,” Consumer Education teacher Gregory Reichelt said.
Those who proposed the tax said it should help improve public health and address the obesity issue at hand. It should urge consumers to buy healthier options and discourage the purchase of drinks like soda. By doing so, people are more inclined to be healthy due to their decreased intake of sugary beverages.
“When you increase the tax of any good, it’s going to discourage people from purchasing them. The sweetened beverages should be considered a treat and by decreasing people’s desire and people’s drinking, it may help the obesity epidemic,” Reichelt said.
Among Maine West students, 44 percent have changed which drinks they buy because of the tax, according to a Westerner survey of 190 students.
It hasn’t stopped other people from trying to get around the tax.
Charlene Diprima, who has worked for Quest for eight years, said, “My husband drinks diet a lot, so he’ll go to the next county and he’ll buy it.” Diprma has not seen a difference in sweetened drinks sales here at West, but over time, she speculates things might change.
“People haven’t really stopped. I still see people going to McDonald’s and buying soda all the same,” sophomore Victoria Buszek said.