Study Shows Controversial Soda Tax Works
A new study affirms public benefits from a controversial “soda tax” that Philadelphia implemented in January 2017. The levy, which is equivalent to about $1 on a 2-liter bottle of soda, contributed to a 38 percent decline in soft drink sales in Philadelphia in 2017, compared to the preceding year, according to research published in the recent Journal of the American Medical Association. The study was funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, a group that supports anti-obesity efforts, and affirms previous findings that beverage taxes reduce consumption. Soda tax supporters say it helps deter people from indulging in sugary drinks, an effective tool in the battle against obesity, diabetes and other diet-related health afflictions. Obesity rates have doubled nationally over the last 40 years and the number of people with diabetes has quadrupled. The beverage industry, which has fought the tax vigorously and continues to argue that the levy hurts working families and small businesses, has drawn intense condemnation for minimizing the connection between sugary drinks and obesity. The state Supreme Court in July 2018 rejected a beverage industry challenge to Philadelphia’s tax. As an added benefit, the tax has generated some $130 million so far to help Philadelphia pay for free preschool programs and other community services. Although the health impact from the tax has not been formally surveyed, the study’s lead author said a decrease in soda intake has positive implications for public health. Soft drink consumption has decreased steadily and substantially over the last decade and Philadelphia’s initiative helps raise awareness that soda is unhealthy and lacks nutritional value. Other municipalities in the state should follow Philadelphia’s lead and implement similar taxes to accelerate the decline in soda consumption and generate more funds for community improvements.