The US’ first soda tax is fulfilling health experts’ goals in Berkeley, California.Sales of sugar-sweetened beverages dropped nearly 10 per cent during the first year of the tax, which raised $1.4 million for child nutrition and community health programmes, a new study showed.
“I’m calling it a home run,” lead author Dr Lynn D. Silver, a senior adviser at the Public Health Institute in Oakland, said of the measure.She ticked off the accomplishments of the penny-per-ounce tax in a phone interview. After it took effect in March 2015, residents drank less sugary drinks and more water, milk and other healthier beverages; average consumer grocery bills did not rise, despite soda company warnings; local store revenue did not, as tax opponents predicted, fall; and the tax raised money for health-education programmes.
Berkeley voters levied the tax on soda and other sugary drinks to try to curb consumption and stem the epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Similar taxes have been levied around the globe – from Mexico to Colombia, France and South Africa.
Last year, other US municipalities — including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Oakland and Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago – approved laws to tax sugary beverages. The new study, reported in PLoS Medicine, evaluated changes in beverage sales in Berkeley during the tax’s first year.
Sugar-sweetened drink sales fell 9.6 per cent compared to predicted sales without the tax, while sales of untaxed beverages, like water and milk, rose 3.5 percent. “The findings suggest that sugary-drink taxes make health and economic sense,” Silver said.