Skip to Content

Philadelphia Mayor takes a stand on Sugary Drinks


The American Heart Association applauds Mayor Jim Kenney’s bold proposal to tax sugary beverages. Mayor Kenney is seeking the three cent tax per ounce on sugary drinks as part of his budget proposal for the city which will officially be revealed tomorrow, stating he believes the tax will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to be used for early child care and education and other initiatives.

We know that sugary beverages are the single largest source of added sugars in the U.S. diet.  Sugary drinks are “empty” calories with no nutritional value. Consumption is directly linked to expensive, chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Many kids and families in our communities are suffering from preventable chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. The AHA recommends limiting consumption of sugary beverages and added sugar to no more than 450 calories (36 oz.) per week.

The AHA supports the tax as a tool which has the potential to quickly reduce consumption of unhealthy sugary beverages.  Recent experience in Mexico showed a decline in consumption of sugary beverages after a similar tax was enacted.  This move in Philadelphia would not only generate revenue but may have a positive effect on public health.

Children continue to struggle with health issues related to poor nutrition and a lack of physical activity.  Diabetes, sleep apnea and asthma, liver disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as heart disease and some cancers have been linked to poor nutrition and inactivity.  Overall childhood obesity rates remain high at approximately 17% of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years.

Science shows that consuming sugary drinks contributes to higher rates of these diseases. Drinking just one sugary drink a day increases a woman’s risk for type 2 diabetes by 80%, and increases a man’s risk of heart disease by 20%.  In addition, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases that are brought on, in part, by consuming sugary drinks are regressive—that is, they disproportionately affect low-income communities.

AHA supports the use of revenue from a sugary drink excise tax to make health-promoting changes, especially to help ensure kids’ health and well-being.  Early care and education centers also play a critical role in giving kids a healthy start in life.  The mayor’s leadership on this issue is a welcome step, and we look forward to working with him to ensure that all kids in child care settings in Philadelphia are receiving nutritious food and opportunities for active play.   The American Heart Association looks forward to working with City officials to pass this policy that could have a profound positive impact on the health of Philadelphians.


  • "Sugary Drink” is defined as any nonalcoholic beverage, whether carbonated or noncarbonated, sold for human consumption that contains any added caloric sweetener.
  • Sugary Drinks do NOT include beverages in which milk is the primary ingredient or the first listed ingredient on the label of the beverage, or soy, rice or similar milk substitute. For purposes of this Act, "milk" means natural liquid milk regardless of animal or plant source or butterfat content; natural milk concentrate, whether or not reconstituted; or dehydrated natural milk, whether or not reconstituted.

Also NOT included are 100% juice or 100% juice + water including those made from frozen, freeze-dried, or concentrate with no added caloric sweeteners, beverages with <5 grams of added sugar or other caloric sweeteners per 12 ounces, coffee and tea without added caloric sweetener*, water without any caloric sweeteners, infant formula, or medically necessary foods and beverages.