Soda Tax Debate Continues
The effectiveness of taxing sugar-sweetened beverages to reduce the amount of sugar consumed has been the subject of debate for several years. As we’ve previously reported on this blog, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report in 2016 that concluded that taxing sugary drinks (and foods) reduces their consumption. However, an independent panel advising WHO did not recommend taxing sugary drinks in the 2018 report, “A Time to Deliver” (see our June 5, 2018 blog).
The most recent endorsement for taxing sugary beverages as a method to reduce the consumption of sugar is by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association. These groups issued a Policy Statement with six recommendations to reduce sugary drink consumption in children and adolescents. The first recommendation is:
“Local, state, and/or national policies intended to reduce consumption of added sugars should include the consideration of approaches that increase the price of sugary drinks, such as an excise tax. Such taxes should be accompanied by education of all stakeholders on the rationale and benefits of the tax before implementation. Tax revenues should be allocated, at least in part, to reducing health and socioeconomic disparities.”
Studies on the effectiveness of sugar-sweetened beverage taxes have not given consistent results. For example, the Philadelphia Inquirer summarized five studies on the impact of Philadelphia’s soda tax (more about the tax can be found here and here). Conclusions varied—depending on the study—from decreased consumption of sweetened beverages to no significant decrease in sugar intake due to the tax. As a result, the Philadelphia City Council approved a resolution last week to conduct another study on the effect of the city’s sweeten beverage tax. The new study will evaluate whether the tax hurts local businesses. Prior to approving the new study, the Philadelphia City Council introduced a bill that could significantly amend the city’s soda tax law or possibly eliminate it (Philadelphia Inquirer). Hearings on the bill will not be held until the study is completed.