Legislation under consideration in the R.I. House and Senate would add a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks such as soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas and coffees.
The tax would be assessed on beverage distributors, who would likely pass it on to retailers and consumers.
While several U.S. cities have enacted taxes on sugary drinks, no state has passed such a measure. In Rhode Island, similar legislative efforts have failed in the past.
Supporters of the tax say sugary beverages are unhealthy and should be avoided. A portion of the tax revenue would be used to give Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients a 50% reduction on the cost of fruits and vegetables.
But local food and beverage industry groups argue that the tax will hurt local beverage makers and consumers who are already struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it may push some to cross into Massachusetts to do their food shopping, damaging Rhode Island retailers.
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