Berkeley soda tax a sweet success, study says

20oz plastic bottles of Coca Cola sit on an unidentified cooler shelf

The study, Silver said, also showed that overall beverage sales went up in Berkeley.

"Soda and other sugary drinks are the number one source of added sugar in the American diet, and are linked to increased risk of diabetes and other diseases, like heart and liver disease, obesity, and tooth decay", shows the Berkeley Soda Tax FAQ. The government brought in $1.4 million in revenue from the tax.

The study also reinforced the idea that a tax on these drinks will ultimately affect spending decisions, regardless of economic status.

Barry Popkin of the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA and Lynn Silver from the Public Health Institute conducted a before and after study of the prices, sales of beverages and consumer spending on fizzy pop in Berkeley, California.

The World Health Organisation said in 2015 that increasing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages "is associated with overweight and obesity in children".

It applies to regular soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, sweetened juice drinks, flavored waters, RTD sweetened coffees and teas.

The report examined the first year of Berkeley's law, which levied a tax of one cent per fluid ounce on sugary drinks.

Mexicans cut their purchases of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages by 5.5 percent the first year that a tax was imposed and by almost 10 percent in the second year, the previous study showed.

Sales of diet soft drinks and diet energy drinks fell by 9.2% during the same period, the study results indicated.

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'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.

When looking at store revenues and consumer grocery bills, both numbers dipped slightly.

"The Berkeley tax is a home run - it helped residents make healthier choices, it raised revenue for promoting health, and we saw no evidence of higher grocery bills for consumers or harm to local business revenue", Silver said in a statement. "Any reduction in the consumption of sugary drinks is an added benefit of the proposed tax". Politico's Morning Agriculture reported that two opposing political action committees have taken in a combined $1.6 million in the city's soda tax battle.

Health advocates in a rally supporting the sugar tax. Mexico and a few other countries now have soda taxes, while the United Kingdom and South Africa plan to implement soda taxes in 2018.

Since then, other cities have implemented similar taxes, including San Francisco, Chicago, Oakland, Calif., and Boulder, Colo.

Santa Fe, N.M., votes May 2 on a soda tax to fund pre-kindergarten programs.

The authors conclude that implementing a SSB tax is "feasible" and believe that their findings from the Berkeley tax show promise for such policies in other jurisdictions.

The study was funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies. Data was collected by the Public Health Institute and its Survey Research Group, with the collaboration of local retailers and grocery chains.

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