The Philadelphia City Council last week approved a tax on sweetened beverages – a move that many expect to be copied by other U.S. cities. The 1.5 cent per ounce tax applies to both regular and diet soda, as well as juice containing less than 50 percent fruit juice, sports drinks and energy drinks.

A 12 pack of pop will now cost an additional $2.16.

Health experts say sugary drinks are a significant factor in the nation’s obesity epidemic – which contributes heavily to health care costs. The tax is intended to curb consumption of soda and other beverages.

However, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney cited education funding (which is where the tax revenues will go) as his primary goal.

Millions spent to fight it

The American Beverage Association criticized the tax action for including low- and no-calorie beverages, and said it would fight to repeal it. The organization spent more than $4.2 million to fight the tax in Philadelphia.

Former New Y0rk Mayor Michael Bloomberg – who attempted and failed to limit the size of sugary drinks sold in the Big Apple – helped fund the pro-tax campaign in Philadelphia, and hailed its victory as an important step in combating obesity.

The American Heart Association said it supports elected officials who “stand up to beverage industry tactics to market sugar-loaded drinks to children and minority communities.

Diabetes, heart disease and obesity

“As governors and mayors struggle with budgets and the high costs of chronic diseases, we urge them to consider taxes on sugary drinks as an effective strategy to fund much-needed health programs throughout their communities. Sugary drinks are an unnecessary part of the American diet. Decades ago, these beverages were considered a treat and are now guzzled at alarming rates. From sports drinks to sodas to many fruit-flavored drinks, children are drinking their age in servings of these sugary drinks each week. Evidence shows adults should not consume more than about 36 ounces, or 450 calories of sugary drinks each week. Yet, the average 8-year-old boy consumes 8 servings, or 64 ounces of sugary drinks each week. Reducing consumption will improve rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.”

The AHA said Philadelphia is “blazing a trail for other cities and states to follow to prioritize heart-healthy habits over beverage industry profits.”

Voters in Oakland, California and San Francisco will likely be voting on a similar ballot initiative in November. There’s a movement in Boulder, Colorado to use a sugary drink tax to fund programs that would increase access to healthy food and physical activity.