Berkeley soda tax a sweet success, study says

Berkeley soda tax a sweet success, study says

The nation's first soda tax is fulfilling health experts' goals in Berkeley, California.

The city's soda tax is a public health success, with no negative impact on overall beverage business, a newly published academic study finds.

While the impact of the recently-enacted sugary beverage tax on Philadelphia has yet to be determined, a new study on a similar policy in a California city offers promising signs.

"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. Similar taxes have been levied around the globe - from Mexico to Colombia, France and South Africa.

The war on obesity and sugary drinks has been gaining traction all over the United States but beverage companies are fighting back. A year after, the sales of sweetened fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sodas fell to around 10 percent, while the unsweetened versions of teas, milk, and fruit juices went up.

"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.

Although intended as a service to public health, the soda tax has proved a reliable source of income for cities where the measure is in progress. The report said the American Beverage Association has contributed at least $800,000 to oppose the tax, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has provided more than $320,000, mostly for media buys, to support the tax.

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

Dr. Tom Farley, the city health commissioner, noted that the tax could also lower the rate of deaths from diabetes in Philly.

Meanwhile, sales of water increased by 15.6%, as prior studies have suggested that individuals who substitute beverages in the wake of increased sugar drink prices are likely to choose water, diet soft drinks or fruit drinks.

Now, many countries are considering or already implementing taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) in an effort to curb obesity and type 2 diabetes levels.

She has watched mothers in clinic waiting rooms feeding their toddlers baby bottles filled with soda, she added.

"This suggests we will see a much larger tax impact in other USA cities with similar or higher tax levels", said Dr. Shu Wen Ng.

"In fact", she said, "we saw an even greater decline in sugary-drink sales in Berkeley in the first year, in spite of Berkeley's relative prosperity".

Reuters reported elsewhere today that sales of soda drinks in the US 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".