Boulder Sugar Tax – What Happens Next?

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On election day, City of Boulder residents passed what will become the nation’s highest tax on sugary drinks at 2 cents per ounce. For the purposes of the ordinance, any drinks with more than 5 grams of added sugar per 12 ounces will be subject to the tax. The ordinance is scheduled to come into effect on July 1st.

Looking to some of the other US cities that have implemented similar taxes, there are many questions around implementation. For example, what will occur with health-oriented drinks such as Kombucha, will exceptions be made? Another primary issue is around distribution, will city-based businesses simply drive outside the City limits to purchase these beverages wholesale and thereby avoid the tax altogether?

Lastly, no exact determination has been made regarding the revenue that will be raised from this new tax, an anticipated $3.8 million in the first year. The ordinance calls for the money to be earmarked for public health programming but no details have been specified and no committee convened to make such determinations.

So, many questions surround the Boulder Sugar Tax, not least its efficacy, with numerous jurisdictions up and down the Front Range looking to see what happens next.


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