The Nation’s First Soda Tax Is Running. Can Its Success Last?

Nothing kills a sweet tooth like a soda tax.

Minority and low-income residents of Berkeley, Calif ., drank 21 percentage less of the sugary stuff after the city enforced an excise tax, according to a study published on Tuesday in the American Journal of Public Health .

Researchers compared sugary drinking sales in Berkeley from the four-month period of April 2014 through July 2014 to a five-month period the next year, just after the tax went into effect.

During that same period, soda sales in San Francisco and Oakland to minorities and low-income residentswho are likelier to consume sugary drinkings and to suffer the health repercussions ticked up 4 percent.

The tax, approved by voters in November 2014 and implemented in March 2015, charges distributors an additional penny per ounce of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, athletics drinkings, and sweet teas.

Nearly 70 percent of that expense is then passed on to customers, an earlier study also conducted by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley’s Nutrition Policy Institute observed.

Berkeley was the first U.S. city to pass a soda taxation, following a campaign funded in part by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as a $1.7 million endeavour by Big Soda to defeat the measure.( Michael Bloomberg is the founder, majority owned and chief executive officer of Bloomberg LP, the mother of Bloomberg.com .)

Philadelphiaa much bigger city than Berkeleyhas since gone even further, with a 1.5 cents-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened and diet liquors. It plans to use that tax revenue to money an expansion of the city’s pre-kindergarten program.

But in Berkeley, it may not have been only the tax that attained the difference. Campaigns in favor of soda taxes usually inform people of the dangers of soda, too.

“We dont know if the reduction is a result of costs increasing or also a reflection of increased awareness that resulted from successful campaigning around the tax, ” said Jennifer Falbe, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of California-Berkeleys School of Public Health, who led the study.

“The debate around be adopted by the tax raises awarenessa critical piece of how it functions, ” says David Goldberg, vice president of communications at Healthy Food America, a nonprofit dedicated to using science to change health policy and industry practice.

Before Mexico legislated its roughly 10 percent tax on sugary liquors in January 2014, billboards went up in Mexico City that indicated the 12 teaspoons of sugar in a 600 milliliter bottle of Coca-Cola, as well as a man who had lost parts of his feet to diabetes.

An initial survey led by the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico, published in November 2015, showed that soda consumption had dropped by as much as 12 percentage in the year after the tax was implemented. An industry-reported soda sales rebound two years after the tax began called the tax’s effectiveness into doubt, but Falbe, Goldberg, and Mexican health advocates warn against read too much into Big Soda’s sales numbers.

“What I would want to see, ” Falbe said, “is long-term results using the same methods, from the same source of data from the original study, before describing any conclusions.”

In other words, it’s too early to tell whether the Mexican soda tax will be as effective in the long term as it was in the short term. But in Berkeley, for now, the soda taxation appears to be doing its job.

Read more: www.bloomberg.com