ibusinesslines.com September 24, 2017

Philly officials encouraged by study on effects of Berkeley's soda tax

21 April 2017, 03:18 | Melissa Porter

Philly officials encouraged by study on effects of Berkeley's soda tax

In 2014 voters in Berkeley Calif. approved the nation’s first tax a penny per ounce on sugar-laden drinks such as bottled cola sports drinks and iced teas. It took effect Jan. 1 2015

US cities that have active public health advocates placed in government, such as Baltimore, Maryland, are other possible candidates for the soft drinks tax.

In November 2014, Berkeley voters, by a better than 3-1 margin, approved Measure D, a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on the distribution of sugary beverages.

The study, conducted by the Public Health Institute and University of North Carolina, is believed to be the largest evaluation of the US' first soda tax, covering 15.5m supermarket checkouts. The figures indicate the "average grocery checkout bill did not increase at these stores - counter to claims by the soda industry that the policy would be a 'grocery tax, '" the study said. "Any reduction in the consumption of sugary drinks is an added benefit of the proposed tax".

Silver said that before voters passed the 1-cent-per-fluid-ounce tax in 2014, researchers were not sure if the small additional cost to buy soda would be enough to make a difference in a prosperous city like Berkeley.

The American cities that declared war on Big Soda and have anti-sugar measures now in effect are Boulder, Colorado; San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Cook County, Illinois.

"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.

"The findings of this study, while limited by its observational design, suggest that SSB taxes may be effective in shifting consumers to purchase healthier beverages without causing undue economic hardship and while raising revenue for social objectives", they concluded.

Silver called the trade group's statement "simply false".

"The soda tax did what it set out to do, which was to lower the sales of sugar-sweetened beverages and to increase consumption of healthier beverages", she said. Her study did not attempt to judge the tax's impact on obesity and diabetes rates.

The World Health Organisation said in 2015 that increasing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages "is associated with overweight and obesity in children".

The American Beverage Association downplayed the significance of the new study, saying the unique demographic profile of the Northern California city of Berkeley makes it a "challenging place to determine the true impact of a beverage tax". Grocery bills averaged pretty much at the same levels, as to before the tax was imposed, suggesting that the residents of Berkeley either bought healthier options or other goods, The Guardian reported.

It found that the volume of sugar-sweetened beverages sold in Berkeley declined by 9.6 percent in the year following implementation. Politico's Morning Agriculture reported that two opposing political action committees have taken in a combined $1.6 million in the city's soda tax battle.

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