Study Reveals Preliminary Benefits of Berkeley’s Soda Tax

The study suggests the tax may have a meaningful impact on consumer behavior
Sugary Drinks

Shutterstock/ Charlie Edwards

Consumers in Berkeley, California pay about 70 percent of the new soda tax, while retailers bear the remaining 30 percent.

It is a well-known fact that sugary beverages have a variety of adverse effects on human health. For years, public health advocates around the country have pushed for a tax on sugary beverages, citing the role of empty calories in the aggravation of the obesity epidemic among other diseases. Other countries concerned about rising rates of obesity, such as Mexico, have implemented their own nationwide soda taxes with success. But consumers and members of the beverage industry have, time and time again, barred the soda tax from coming to fruition in the United States. Many began to turn to alternative public health measures, but one city persisted. As a result, Berkeley, California became the first in the nation to enforce a soda tax.

Click here for the 10 Reasons You Should Never Drink Soda slideshow.

Last year, a grass roots coalition funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies convinced 76 percent of voters to support the soda tax. It was passed in November 2014 and was put into effect in March. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley released a new study Wednesday assessing the efficacy of the tax in its first few months implementation. Though preliminary, the results are very promising. From March through June, soda prices in Berkeley increased seven-tenths of a cent per ounce more than in other cities. This means that consumers bear 70 percent of the extra cost from the 1-cent-per-ounce tax. For all other sugary beverages, retailers are passing off just under 50 percent of the cost.

Their findings provide evidence that consumers are truly seeing and feeling the extra cost of buying sugary drinks. If Mexico is any example, Berkeley’s tax will continue to have a significant impact on consumer behavior. A study conducted by the Mexican National Institute of Public Health found that purchases of sugary beverages in Mexico dropped six percent on average in the soda tax’s first year. Although soda taxes remain a controversial issue, the Berkeley tax is an important step towards reducing the consumption of these beverages. If Berkeley sees a downward trend in soda consumption in the next year, as was the case in Mexico, other American cities may be inclined to follow their lead. 


The accompanying slideshow is provided by Daily Meal special contributor Dr. Verma.