Berkeley Finds Sweet Gains in Imposing Soda Tax: Other Anti-Soda, Anti-Sugar Measures In Action


Three years after Berkeley, California, implemented the 1 cent per fluid ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, a study by the University of North Carolina and the Public Health Institute revealed soft drink sales declined by over 9 percent.

In an effort to curb soda consumption and subsequently reduce obesity and type 2 diabetes rates, six U.S. cities have rallied to the soda tax initiative in 2016.

The American cities that declared war on Big Soda and have anti-sugar measures currently in effect are Boulder, Colorado; San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Cook County, Illinois.

Just like Berkeley, the other three California cities, together with Cook County, all passed a 1 cent per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has imposed a 1.5 cents per fluid ounce tax, whereas in Boulder, the tax is 2 cents per ounce.

According to Forbes, Illinois could extend the tax at state level, while "initiatives may start bubbling in other California cities and Santa Fe, New Mexico." U.S. cities that have active public health advocates placed in government, such as Baltimore, Maryland, are other possible candidates for the soft drinks tax.

Anti-Soda Initiatives Outside US Borders

Other countries have also adopted similar taxes on sugary beverages. The soda tax in Mexico, implemented in 2014, has led to an important decrease in sugar-sweetened drinks. Following the anti-sugar exertion, soda sales have dropped by 17 percent amid low-income residents.

In Europe, measures to limit sugar consumption have been imposed in several countries, particularly in Hungary, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

After banning vending machines in schools in 2004 and limiting the servings of french fries to once a week in school cafeterias in 2011, France banned soda refills in restaurants all around the country at the beginning of the year.

The initiative adds to the tax on sweetened beverages France already imposed five years ago.

All these efforts aim to discourage people from drinking sodas, sports drinks, and other beverages that have added sugar.

"I think different cities and countries will find different way to make it happen," says Dr. Robert Lustig, sugar researcher and pediatric endocrinologist at University of California.

Why Is The Soda Tax Important

Numerous studies have attested to the contribution sugary beverages have to obesity. Such drinks offer little nutritional value and are instead packed with empty calories.

"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.

Although intended as a service to public health, the soda tax has proved a reliable source of income for cities where the measure is in progress.

In Berkeley, the money raised from this tax goes into the city's general fund, while Philadelphia uses the revenue to expand the availability of pre-kindergarten in the city.

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