Backed by the American Beverage Association, the Keep Seattle Livable for All coalition is leading an opposition campaign for a tax on sweetened beverages that will take effect in the city on Jan. 1.

The 1.75-cent-per-ounce tax passed by the city council in June includes soda, sports and energy drinks, sweetened teas and juices, and pre-made coffee beverages. It does not include diet soft drinks, alcoholic beverages or 100-percent fruit and vegetable juices.

“Seattle residents who can least afford this tax will be hurt the most,” according to the Keep Seattle Livable for All coalition’s website. “ Despite the health claims used by the City Council to justify this new tax, the fact is that beverage taxes have never been shown to improve public health anywhere else they’ve been tried. The evidence is clear that these types of taxes only make people's lives harder and their cities less livable.”

The tax will be levied on distributors, and those added costs are likely to be recovered through price increases by Seattle businesses. The Keep Seattle Livable for All coalition in May sent a letter to the city council with signatures from 209 small businesses opposed to the tax.

“It’s a really steep hike, and it’s definitely going to make us raise our soda prices,” said German Arias, who owns El Farol Mexican restaurant on East Republican Street. “I don’t think it’s a good idea, more taxes on people, but that’s how it works.”

People in convenience and grocery stores may already have seen warning signs on their sweetened beverages, which are part of the Keep Seattle Livable for All campaign.

Those notices say the cost of one gallon of sweetened tea will go up more than $2, and a 12-pack of 12-ounce soft drinks will increase more than $2.50 at the start of the year.

“It’s a good cause, but soda, it’s going to affect a lot of low-income people already,” Arias said.

Of the $15 million expected to be generated in its first year, more than $2.5 million is already earmarked for an expansion of the Fresh Bucks program and the implementation of the Seattle Food Action Plan, and nearly $1.5 million for the 13th Year Promise Scholarship, which allows local graduating seniors to attend South Seattle College tuition-free for one year. Local food banks are also slated to receive funding, while an expansion of the Farm to Table program, which provides food stipends and nutritional education to nearly 2,000 children, is proposed as well.

Vic Colman, a member of the Seattle Healthy Kids Coalition — a group in favor of the tax — and the executive director of the statewide Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, said research shows that products like sweetened beverages are price-sensitive. When the cost of those drinks reaches a critical mass point, people stop purchasing them, and there’s a corresponding drop in health-related issues. That’s a history that already exists with tobacco and alcohol.

“Pricing is probably the most powerful policy lever you can pull,” Colman said.

Opponents to the tax argue that if people do stop consuming sugary drinks, then the revenue from sales of soda and other beverages will drop.

“It will drop, for sure,” Colman said, “and I think that’s important for the decision makers at the city not to rely on the money to be a sustainable revenue source, but to look to invest in programs in communities focused on food access, but not just backfill.”

He noted the importance of tying those dollars to public health efforts and nutrition programs.

“We’d love to put ourselves out of business in a way; as folks who work in prevention,” Colman said. “If we see no new revenue, that means consumption is very, very low. But that’s not reality.”

Colman also noted the accountability measures in place with the tax. Along with a Sweetened Beverage Tax Community Advisory Board that advises the mayor and city council on programs to fund with the new revenue, he noted that researchers from the University of Washington will complete an annual evaluation of the tax’s impacts.

That includes economic outcomes for both households and businesses, and health behaviors and outcomes, something Colman said is unique to Seattle’s effort, compared to other cities across the country that have enacted similar measures like Philadelphia, Oakland, and Boulder, Colo.

Jlaxin Wang, who owns ramen spot Ooink in Capitol Hill said the tax is very confusing, and she didn’t even know about the tax until a volunteer with the Keep Seattle Livable for All campaign came by and informed her. Like Arias, she is among the 209 small business owners who signed the May opposition letter.

“Most people, when you ask them, they don’t know, they have no idea,” she said, “because they have enough stuff to worry about.”

She also sees her prices going up as a result of the upcoming increase she’ll be paying for soda, which she said doesn’t get ordered much at Ooink. It might be easier just not to sell soda at all, she said.

Arias said the tax is just one more increase in the cost of doing business in Seattle, citing rising costs for other foods, such as tomatoes and avocados, which are crucial ingredients for any Mexican restaurant. He said he thinks sin taxes make more sense for items like liquor and cigarettes.

Other Capitol Hill business owners who signed the opposition letter include Theresa Sindelar for Rocket Fizz, Colleen Stevens for Bill’s Off Broadway, David Nelson for Hot Mama’s Pizza, Charles Olsen for Blue Moon Burger, Gary Reynolds for Revolver Bar, Jongchul Kim for Summit Foods Mart and Michael Abraha for Howell Street Grocery.

While the beverage industry, led by powerhouses that included PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Co., were successful in repealing a one-cent-per-ounce soda tax in Cook County, Illinois, that didn’t occur until after several months of rapidly declining sales and lawsuits.

Joe Veyera with the Queen Anne & Magnolia News contributed heavily to this article.