Emily Rice Published

W.Va. Soda Tax Removed

Aluminum soda cans are seen from above, unopened. Colors are visible on the sides of the cylinders.
An excise tax on sugary drinks meant to discourage consumers from drinking so many of them has been lifted in West Virginia.
OlegDoroshin/Adobe Stock

A bill passed two years ago took effect yesterday and removed West Virginia’s additional tax on sugary drinks.

Lawmakers passed legislation in 2022 to repeal West Virginia’s 71-year-old excise tax on bottled soft drinks, syrups and dry mixtures used to make soft drinks after June 30, 2024.

These excise taxes are sometimes known as “sin taxes” because, unlike general sales tax, they are used in part to discourage the purchase of products deemed costly to the individual or the public, such as through increased health care costs.

Senior Advisor to Gov. Jim Justice, Larry Pack celebrated the removal of the tax at a virtual press event Monday.

“We’re cutting taxes left and right, the matter of fact…yesterday was the last day for the pop tax that we don’t no longer have to pay that,” Pack said.

Previously, only Arkansas and West Virginia levied a per-gallon excise tax on soft drinks, while Tennessee and Virginia taxed wholesalers who sell bottles of sugary soda based on gross receipts.

The revenue collected from the tax has gone to the West Virginia University (WVU) School of Medicine. Originally, the money was meant to fund the construction of a new health sciences center and university hospital at WVU. The building has long been built with WVU continuing to collect the funding.

According to the West Virginia Legislature’s blog, in place of the tax, which earned WVU $14 million annually, the legislation that removed the tax also created a funding stream for WVU, the Marshall School of Medicine and the West Virginia Osteopathic School of Medicine from the existing state Insurance Premium Tax.

The American Heart Association advocates for taxing sugary drinks, citing analyses of localities across the nation that have implemented sugary drink taxes. For example, a 2021 study of the Seattle, Washington sugary drink tax found a 22 percent decline in sugary drink purchases and the total amount of sugar sold through taxed drinks dropped by 23 percent.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Marshall Health.