Philadelphia’s tax on sweetened beverages led to a 38.9% drop in the volume of taxed beverages sold at small, independent retailers and a significant increase in the price of taxed beverages, according to the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The study builds on previous research that suggests beverage taxes can help reduce purchases of sugary drinks.
“Beverage taxes are a win-win. They decrease purchases of sugary drinks that are making us sick, and in Philadelphia, also raise revenue for important programs supporting children’s education,” said Christina Roberto, PhD, associate professor of medical ethics and health policy at Penn and senior author of the study.
In January 2017, Philadelphia implemented an excise tax of 1.5 cents per ounce on sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages to raise revenue for education initiatives. This is the first study to examine the impact of the tax on volume sales at small stores, according to the researchers.
A year after Philadelphia’s tax on sweetened beverages went into effect, the price of taxed drinks in the small independent stores they studied increased by 1.81 cents per ounce, and the volume of taxed beverages sold had dropped 38.9%.
The researchers also found larger declines in taxed beverage purchases at stores in neighborhoods where there are higher rates of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes. These data indicate that sweetened beverage taxes are an effective policy tool for reducing sugary drink purchases among at-risk populations, the researchers said.
The researchers conducted the study to examine sugary beverage purchases in 134 small independent stores in urban areas. They compared changes in beverage prices and purchases before and 12 months after tax implementation stores in Philadelphia and an untaxed control city, Baltimore, Maryland.
“This study provides important additional evidence that beverage taxes are one of the most effective policy tools we have to decrease sugar-sweetened beverage purchases,” said Roberto.
The study, “The Association of a Sweetened Beverage Tax With Changes in Beverage Prices and Purchases at Independent Stores,” was published by Health Affairs.