This article originally appeared in the Easy Bay Times and is available here.
BERKELEY — The city’s soda tax is a public health success, with no negative impact on overall beverage business, a newly published academic study finds.
The study, conducted by the Oakland-based Public Health Institute, covered 15.5 million supermarket checkouts during the year following implementation of the tax, which is levied on the distribution of sugary drinks.
It found that the volume of sugar-sweetened beverages sold in Berkeley declined by 9.6 percent in the year following implementation. Meanwhile, sales of healthier beverages such as water and milk increased, and so there was no negative impact on overall beverage sales, the study found.
“The Berkeley tax is a home run—residents chose healthier options, it raised revenue for promoting health, and we saw no evidence of higher grocery bills for consumers or harm to local business revenue,” the lead author of the study, Dr. Lynn Silver of the PHI, said in a press release. “These findings suggest that sugary drink taxes make health and economic sense.”
PHI did the study in collaboration with the University of North Carolina and support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
In November 2014, Berkeley voters, by a better than 3-1 margin, approved Measure D, a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on the distribution of sugary beverages.
As of an estimate made in August 2016, the tax was on track to collect about $1.5 million a year. Proponents of the tax have said that its primary goal was to reduce consumption of sugary drinks as a way to fight diabetes, obesity, tooth decay and other health problems that disproportionately affect minority people, many of whom are poor.
The Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Product Panel of Experts Commission advises the city on how to spend proceeds of the tax, which have been used to fund some health- and nutrition-focused programs and activities.
Hailed as the nation’s first soda tax, Berkeley’s Measure D was not the first of its kind in North America. In January 2014, Mexico implemented a nationwide one-peso-per-liter tax on sodas. Several Pacific Island nations and the Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius also instituted taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages before Berkeley did, and several other nations have done so since.