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Does Taxing Soda Actually Stop People from Drinking It?

From TIME - April 12, 2018

A new study suggests that people may drink significantly less soda when it costs more. The findings support a public health strategythe so-called soda tax, or a sugary drink tax that raises the price of sugar-sweetened beveragesthat has grown more popular in recent years.

In the study, researchers analyzed the effects of Philadelphias sugary drink tax implemented in January 2017one of the steepest in the U.S. at $0.015 per ounce, which was estimated to increase the cost of sugary drinks by as much as 20%. Researchers from Drexel University in Philadelphia looked at the short-term impact of the citys beverage tax by studying residents consumption within the first two months of the tax and comparing it to how much people reported drinking before the tax. Their findings are published in the journal American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The researchers asked close to 900 men and women in Philadelphia about their sugar-sweetened beverage habits before and after the tax was launched; they also asked about 900 people living in three other cities (Trenton, New Jersey; Camden, New Jersey; and Wilmington, Delaware). Philadelphia residents were 40% less likely to report drinking sugary soda each day after the tax was passed, and 64% less likely to drink energy drinks. Instead, they seemed to drink more water; residents were 58% more likely to drink bottled water every day. The researchers did not see declines in sugary fruit drinks like lemonade or cranberry juice. There were declines in the consumption of diet beverages (which were also taxed) but they were not statistically significant.

Theres growing recognition that sugar-sweetened beverages are not an essential item, and consumers may be willing to accept other beverages if sugar-sweetened beverages are not as cheap as they have been, says study co-author Amy Auchincloss, an associate professor at Drexels Dornsife School of Public Health.

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