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American Heart Association Endorses Washington, D.C. Sugary Drink Tax Legislation to Promote Health Equity

Earlier this month, Washington, D.C. Councilmembers introduced new legislation that would levy a 1.5 cent per ounce tax on sugary drinks in the District. The American Heart Association (AHA) came out in strong support of this legislation. Read on to learn more.


D.C. Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Trayon White, David Grosso, Brandon Todd, Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, Chairman Phil Mendelson and Anita Bonds introduced the sugary drink tax legislation. The revenue raised from the tax will be invested in a variety of programs meant to help the most vulnerable District children and families live longer and healthier lives, including:

  • Early childhood education
  • Nutrition and food access
  • Ugrades to parks

“We are thrilled that the D.C. Council will consider legislation to tax sugary drinks. This bill will build health equity in our communities, empower people to make healthier choices and contribute to programs that help District residents live long and healthy lives,” said Dr. Roquell E.Wyche, MD, FACC, Greater Washington Region American Heart Association Board President and cardiologist at Chesapeake and Washington Heart Care. “We strongly urge the Council to take up this legislation and pass it without delay.”

More than 40,000 people in the United States die each year from heart problems as a result of consuming too many sugary drinks, which include sports drinks, fruit drinks with added sugars and sodas. Children on average drink 30 gallons of sugary drinks every year—enough to fill a bathtub—with both kids and adults at increased risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes due to overconsumption of these drinks.

Sugary drinks also contribute to persistent health disparities in the District. On average, residents of D.C.’s lowest income neighborhoods live 16 years less than residents of the most affluent areas and have five times higher rates of type 2 diabetes. Of the top five leading causes of death in the District, four are diet-related chronic illnesses.

Sugary drink taxes in Seattle, Philadelphia, Boulder and California’s Bay Area have had a variety of positive impacts, from driving down sales of sugary drinks to raising revenue that supports critical investments in communities and families. In Philadelphia, for example, sales of sweetened drinks have declined by 38% since the city’s tax took effect—the equivalent to 83 million fewer cans of soda purchased—while thousands of children have been newly enrolled in high quality early childhood education programs.

Want to make progress in your community? Check out our Sugary Drinks Toolkit.