Tax on sugar-sweetened drinks makes sales drop!

Tax on sugary drinks is today a well discussed topic and is up for frequent political debate. Whatever your political stance, you can probably agree upon the statement that sugary drinks shouldn’t be included in the everyday diet of children, youngsters or adults. We know that simple sugars are bad for you and that the dietary intake should be as low as possible. In fact, American Heart Association, recommends that the upper limit of added sugars should be no more than 100kcal for women and 150kcal for a man. Today, consumption reaches almost 450kcal/day for an average American. Sugar- sweetened beverages are the primary source of those calories (2).

Politics aside, there is a need for objectively study the findings from areas where tax on sugar- sweetened beverages have been implemented in order to know the impact of tax on consumer consumption. One group of researchers studied the 1- year effects of tax on sugar- sweetened beverages in Berkley, US. The tax added about 60cents to a dollar bottle and 12 cents to a dollar can. They collected data from different kinds of stores (store scanners from checkouts) and from consumers.

The main findings of the study:

Sales of sugar-sweetened beverages fell 9.6% in relation to predicted sales without tax. In cities used as a control (without tax) sales of sugar- sweetened beverages increased 6.9%.

Sales of beverages without tax (especially water) rose 3.5% and total beverage sales increased from baseline. However, the drop in sales did not lessen the overall consumer spending per transaction in the stores.

In one year with the tax the city raised 1.4million (about 12dollars/ capita), money that was used for child nutrition and community health services (1).

Conclusion: Berkley is a well off state and consumption of soda- sweetened beverages was estimated to be low even before implementation of the tax. This fact strengthens the study findings, i.e. that tax on sugar- sweetened beverages lowers consumption and do not change the cost/ revenue for the people/ stores.

Article by team EBT member @jonasliefke, 3rd year Medical Student, BSc Physiotherapy.


1. Johnson et al. Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health. A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation September 15, 2009

2. Silver LD et al. Changes in prices, sales, consumer spending, and beverage consumption one year after a tax on sugarsweetened beverages in Berkeley, California, US: A before-and-after study. PLoS Med 14(4): e1002283.




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