In the final issue of Public Health Nutrition in 2017, Kathryn Backholer and colleagues provide a clear overview of the spread of taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) in 2017, and a useful overview of opposing arguments and their counterpoints. Backholer et al. argue that much of the action was concentrated in the USA, but in the present commentary we point out that the recent sweep of SSB tax policy announcements in the EU seems much more promising. Policy makers in EU countries seem to learn from neighbouring countries, while political ideologies do not appear to stand in the way. This could have international spillover effects as the default tax thresholds of 5 and 8 g sugar/100 ml, used in EU cases, provide clear incentives for the multinational soda industry to reduce sugar levels across the board, although it is not yet clear whether the tiered tax designs used in the EU are actually more effective than the flat rate tax designs used in the USA. Scholars may contribute to the policy momentum by comparing the effectiveness and feasibility of both designs in different policy contexts, including lower- and middle-income countries. The spread of SSB taxes in the USA will nevertheless most likely be limited so long as it remains a local policy and ‘no-go’ for the Republican Party. We explain the differences between the EU and USA by comparing the level of fiscal decentralization, the political context and the use of framing strategies.