What Worked in Seattle
Each community has unique circumstances that dictate how it will frame and design its campaign. Here are some lessons learned from Seattle:
- Funding food access was critical in showing the connection between taxing an unhealthy product and promoting healthy eating.
- Numerous amendments were proposed in City Council that would have weakened the anticipated health impacts of the policy. The influence of advocates who were familiar with best policy practice was key in producing a well-designed tax bill.
- The legislative route went quickly and smoothly. Support among elected officials was strong from the outset. A strong council champion committed to evidence-based, equitable policy steered the ordinance through the council quickly after the mayor introduced it. Effective local coalitions, and leading medical, public health, and early education experts supported the ordinance. Industry opposition was low intensity, perhaps because it assessed its efforts were not likely to shape the council vote.
- One way to assure rigorous evaluation of the policy is to dedicate revenue for this purpose. Seattle’s ordinance allocated revenue to evaluate impact on behavior, health, and economic outcomes. This is the first sugary drink tax to dedicate revenue to its own rigorous evaluation of the policy’s impacts.
- Policy equity was a priority to community advocates and council members. Concerns were addressed through funding dedication and establishing a Community Advisory Board.
- Council took Teamsters’ and small scale drink producers’ concerns seriously in the context of growing concern about the affordability of living in Seattle, dedicating some revenue to job training and creating small producer exemptions.