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

21 April 2017, 03:17 | Todd Saunders

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

Sales of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) fell by an estimated 9.6% one year after the city of Berkeley, Calif., imposed a penny-per-ounce tax on them, researchers reported.

Sales of sugar-sweetened beverages dropped almost 10 percent during the first year of the tax, which raised US$1.4 million for child nutrition and community health programs, a new study showed. Berkeley, the first city in the United States with such a tax, is one of the cities in the California with higher average income and education. In the study that included 15.5 million transactions, about two-thirds of the 1c-per-oz tax (0.67c per oz) was passed through to consumers by price increases on the taxed drinks.

'Sales in ounces of taxed SSBs fell by 9.6% in relation to predicted sales in the absence of the tax, while sales of untaxed beverages rose 3.5% and total beverage sales rose in Berkeley. If people were buying beverages elsewhere, that overall number would have most likely dropped, she explained.

Sales of water increased by 15.6 per cent post tax and sales for other non-taxed drinks such as unsweetened teas, milk and fruit juices also rose.

When looking at store revenues and consumer grocery bills, both numbers dipped slightly. Average store revenue per transaction dropped 36 cents in Berkeley compared to a 54-cent dip in non-Berkeley stores. The soda tax in Mexico, implemented in 2014, has led to an important decrease in sugar-sweetened drinks.

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The report was welcomed by officials in Philly where a 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax was enacted.

In Berkeley, the money raised from this tax goes into the city's general fund, while Philadelphia uses the revenue to expand the availability of pre-kindergarten in the city. USA cities that have active public health advocates placed in government, such as Baltimore, Maryland, are other possible candidates for the soft drinks tax. Her study did not attempt to judge the tax's impact on obesity and diabetes rates. The disease kills about 350 residents and contributes to an additional 1,000 deaths.

The tax on sugary drinks is just a small step in a national effort to cut down caloric intake that can cause diabetes and obesity. "In Philadelphia, we face a severe health crisis with our twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes, and sugary drinks are the biggest single contributor". In the study of 26 stores, the tax was fully passed on in large (1.07c per oz) and small chain supermarkets and chain gas stations (1.31c per oz). Silver said that residents surveyed did not report significant changes in where they purchased their beverages after the tax took effect.

Researchers believe soda taxes in those communities could have a greater impact than in Berkeley because per capita consumption of sweetened beverages is about three times lower in Berkeley than the country as a whole, Silver said. 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.



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