It’s too soon to tell whether a so-called “soda tax” can
improve public health. But early data shows it certainly seems
to lead to people drinking less soda.
Consumption of sugary drinks has declined in three places that
recently started taxing soda: two cities (Berkeley, CA and
Philadelphia, PA) and a country (Mexico.)
Grocers and beverage distributors in Philadelphia, which
implemented a 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax on soda on this year,
recently told Bloomberg that in the first few weeks their
sales have slid by as much as 50%. Results in Philadelphia, the
country’s fifth most populous city, could provide feedback on
what impact these taxes would have on soda consumption in a
major urban market.
In Berkeley, the first US city to adopt a soda tax, a 2016
survey by UC Berkeley found consumption of soda and other
sugary beverages in low-income neighborhoods fell 21% after a
1-cent-per-ounce tax was rolled out in 2015.
In Mexico, where a soda tax went into effect in 2014, purchases
of taxed sugar-sweetened beverages beverages decreased by 5.5%
in 2014 and 9.7% in 2015, according to a
new study in Health Affairs that used Nielsen survey
More soda taxes are planned: three more Californian cities, San
Francisco, Oakland and Albany; Boulder, Colorado; and Cook
County, Illinois, home to more than 5 million people including
residents of Chicago, the country’s third-largest city.
A penny or so per ounce may not sound like a lot, but it adds
up. Philadelphia raised $5.7 million in January from the tax.
In Chicago, the price of a $10 pack of soda is
estimated to rise to $15.76 when the tax kicks in this
Health groups, like the American Heart Association,
support the tax as a way to reduce sugar intake, but
there’s a catch: the soda tax in both Berkeley and Philadelphia
is imposed on distributors, not as a sales tax to consumers.
People begin drinking less soda once the tax is passed on in
the form of higher prices in stores and on menus — but theres a
risk that grocery stores and restaurants may choose to increase
prices on other products instead.
Albany, California is planning to introduce a soda tax.
Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this
article said a tax was being planned for Albany, New