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PHI in the News

In Response: Watered down facts on soda tax

July 14, 2017 | Lynn Silver | The San Diego Union-Tribune

Regarding “Soda tax no panacea for obesity problems” (July 5): The American Beverage Association understands marketing better than science. As lead author of a study whose findings were cherry-picked in this op-ed, I’d like to clarify.

Beverage companies may not like soda taxes, but local businesses and communities are doing just fine.

Our analyses showed Berkeley’s food sector revenue grew by 15 percent, faster than other sectors, and by 469 jobs after the soda tax passed. In 15 million supermarket visits studied, unhealthy sugary beverages (including sodas and other sugary drinks) declined 10 percent, replaced by healthier choices — including water sales, which rose 16 percent, and milk. Overall beverage sales rose while average grocery bills did not.

The Mexican study of obesity cited was not about a soda tax and actually compared 2012 with 2016, a period half before and only half after the soda tax.

Even so, obesity in Mexican schoolchildren declined (not significantly) and overweight and obesity in adults did not increase significantly.

Read the full letter to the editor in The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Berkeley Residents Buying Fewer Sugary Drinks and More Water Thanks to Soda Tax

The largest-to-date evaluation of the nation’s first sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) tax, covering 15.5 million supermarket checkouts, found that the volume of sugar sweetened beverages sold in Berkeley declined significantly, by 9.6%, in the year following implementation of that city's tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Because sales for healthier beverages also rose, there was no negative impact on overall beverage sales at studied local businesses. Overall grocery bills (consumer spending per checkout) also did not go up.

Read the study to learn more, and view an additional analysis showing that food sector revenue and jobs rose in Berkeley following the tax.

Lynn Silver, MD, MPH, is a senior advisor at PHI for chronic disease and obesity