The sale of sodas in the city of Philadelphia has dropped following the implementation of a tax on sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened drinks.
In a study featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health discovered a decline in soda sales, which they described as "significant and substantial."
The change seemed to have come after the city government started implementing its new tax on sugary drinks.
Philadelphia's levy on such beverages was launched back in 2017. It requires a 1.5-cent tax for every ounce on sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened drinks. This means that for every 20 ounces of soda, the policy would add 30 cents to its price, and about a dollar for every 2 liters.
Philadelphia's Tax On Sugar-Sweetened Drinks
Michael LeVasseur and Christina Roberto of UPenn's Perelman School of Medicine collaborated with Hannah Lawman at Philadelphia's public health department to carry out the study.
The researchers looked at sales data from 291 different stores in the city, such as pharmacies, supermarkets, and mass merchandise stores. They then compared their findings with data from the city of Baltimore, which served as a control group to examine other factors not related to the soda tax.
Soda sales in Philadelphia dropped by as much as 51 percent since the implementation of the levy.
While the sales of sugary beverages within the city have plummeted, the researchers found that sales in nearby areas also increased by 43 percent. It is possible that customers chose to buy soda from stores outside of Philadelphia to avoid having to pay the tax.
Considering the spike in sales in neighboring areas, the study showed a 38 percent dropped in soda sales in the city overall.
The Soda Tax Debate
Supporters of the soda tax believe the move helps discourage people from consuming unhealthy amounts of sugary beverages. It also provides a potential way to combat obesity and other health conditions.
However, critics of the policy claim that it only affects lower-income people and damages businesses. The tax also allegedly infringes on consumer rights.
The results of Philadelphia's soda tax could lead policymakers to consider implementing similar initiatives in their own jurisdictions.
In 2017, shoppers in the city bought nearly 1 billion fewer ounces of sugary beverages. This is significantly lower compared to figures from 2016.
Health Risks Associated With Sugary Drink Consumption
Previous studies have explored the potential link between sugary drink consumption with various health risks. Some of these have been included in a discussion by Harvard's School of Public Health.
Overweight and Obesity: Increased consumption of soft drinks has been associated with increased energy (caloric) intake. This effect is shown to be stronger among women, based on a meta-analysis of more than 80 studies. Cutting sugary drink consumption can result in better weight control among people who are initially overweight.
Diabetes: People who regularly consume one to two cans of sugary drinks or more each day have a 26 percent greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who rarely drink such beverages. The risk is even greater in young adults and Asians.
Heart Attack: Those who drink an average of one can of sugary beverage each have a 20 percent higher chance of suffering a heart attack or dying from a heart attack compared to those who rarely consume such drinks.