Berkeley soda tax takes a big gulp out of sugary-drink sales

Sales of soda in Berkeley California- the first US city to implement a soda tax a one penny per ounce- have fallen by almost 10 percent

Sales of soda in Berkeley California- the first US city to implement a soda tax a one penny per ounce- have fallen by almost 10 percent

Until the tax passed in Berkeley, no soda taxed had been imposed.

Be aware that the consumption of SSBs in Berkeley is significantly lower than that in the broader US, even at baseline.

Sales of sugary drinks in one area dropped nearly ten per cent after a one cent per ounce tax hike, suggesting sugar taxes actually work.

Reuters reported elsewhere today that sales of soda drinks in the USA fell in 2016 for the 12th year in a row, "as demand was hit by consumers choosing healthier options and a slew of sugar taxes aimed at stemming obesity and diabetes took effect".

However, sales of SSBs increased by 6.9% in surrounding areas, suggesting that some people may have gone elsewhere for their sugar fix, Silver and colleagues acknowledged online in PLOS Medicine. A telephone survey of 957 Berkeley residents was also conducted. Berkeley residents were low consumers of sugary drinks at baseline, consuming only 34% of the national average, the researchers noted.

Lead author Lynn Silver, MD, MPH, of the Oakland-based Public Health Institute, said: "The Berkeley tax is a home run- residents chose healthier options, it raised revenue for promoting health, and we saw no evidence of higher grocery bills for consumers or harm to local business revenue". "Any reduction in the consumption of sugary drinks is an added benefit of the proposed tax".

The war on obesity and sugary drinks has been gaining traction all over the U.S. but beverage companies are fighting back.

Last year, other US municipalities - including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Oakland and Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago - approved laws to tax sugary beverages.

"It can not distinguish the longer-term effects of education and intensive media debate on SSBs in the communities surrounding the San Francisco Bay as a result of tax and other pre-existing campaigns in both Berkeley and San Francisco in 2014, although baseline store price survey and consumption data were collected after those campaigns but before tax implementation, mitigating this issue somewhat", they explain. For soda and energy drinks the tax was fully passed through (1.09c per oz).

To compile the study, researchers collected 15.5 million supermarket checkouts at 26 stores, including three in Berkeley and six in nearby cities.

"This study won't stop Big Soda from claiming that taxes don't work", said Jacobson, who was not involved with the research.

"Berkeley's innovative tax on SSBs was mostly, though not uniformly, passed through to consumers, and sales of SSBs declined significantly, consistent with published price elasticity estimates", Silver and colleagues said.

In the 15.5m supermarket checkouts studied, 67% of the amount of the tax was passed on to consumers across all SSBs, and the tax was fully passed through for sodas and energy drinks.

Proponents of soda taxes hailed the study as evidence of their effectiveness.

The study was supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has supported soda taxes in the United States and other countries.

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