Seattle’s sugary drink tax may help health, but it’s frustrating buyers

SEATTLE — The sticker shock is getting real for the sugary drink tax in Seattle.

This week stores and restaurants across the city have grappled with how to handle the new tax that went into effect Monday.

Distributors will pay $.0175 per fluid ounce.

That’s a cost that will likely get passed onto you — the consumer. It means a 12-ounce can of Coke would cost 21 cents more. A liter will cost about 60 cents more.

A whole case of soda is an extra $2.52.

Sometimes seeing it in black and white makes you turn red.

Mega-chain Costco is making its opinion clear about the tax, and upfront about the extra cost, by telling shoppers where they can buy outside the city. They have placed placards next to prices on drinks that apply.

Fast-casual places like Ivar's and chains like Subway face a unique problem.

Fountain drinks are usually just one price and one charge -- you’re pretty much just paying for the cup.

A major franchiser for Subway told Q13 News that he's just going to pass the cost to customers for *all* drinks, diet and sugary alike.

Ivar's is still on the fence.

“We still have soda we purchased in December, so we have some time before we have to change prices for soda.

"More of our customers are choosing as their drinks milk, milkshakes, teas, and waters, so the impact of the tax is diminishing every day,” Ivar’s President Bob Donegan said in a written statement.

That's part of the point, say tax supporters.

Think of it like the tobacco taxes.

It's meant to be so painful in the wallet so that it leads people to change their habits.

“It changed norms. It saved lives,” said Seattle City Councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda.

She has pushed for programs like this for nearly a decade.

Supporters say the sugar drink industry targets disadvantaged communities, which are most affected by diabetes and obesity.

The tax money is only partially about habits.

“To make sure that we not only impact norms and behaviors for folks in term of choice and consumption. But that we also invest in food access programs, education and early-learning efforts throughout Seattle,” Mosqueda said.