Date Published: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Sanjay Basu, Kristine Madsen
Abstract: Sanjay Basu and Kristine Madsen discuss the effects of taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages in both Australia and Berkeley, USA.
Partial Text: In the first of the 2 articles, Barry Popkin and colleagues performed a study of prices, sales, consumer spending, and beverage consumption before and after a penny-per-ounce tax on SSBs that was implemented starting in March 2015 in Berkeley, California, United States . The authors made an extensive effort to triangulate data from stores, sales databases, and telephone surveys of adults in Berkeley. Importantly, sales data analyses included adjacent comparison cities that did not institute a tax, helping to isolate the effects of the tax from macroeconomic conditions that can affect beverage purchases over time, preexisting trends, regional media campaigns that both favored and opposed the tax, and other social and cultural influences on SSB sales across the region.
In the second PLOS Medicine article, Anita Lal and colleagues projected changes in SSB consumption across the SES spectrum using data from Australian health surveys . This study addresses the question of whether a hypothetical 20% SSB tax would be regressive (disproportionately burdening low-SES populations), even when accounting for health benefits and healthcare cost savings.
Further data will emerge from other cities and countries now that SSB taxation has passed in a number of other jurisdictions (including the United Kingdom and, in the US, the cities of Albany, Boulder, Chicago, Oakland, Philadelphia, and San Francisco) and is being considered in other countries, including Australia, India, and South Africa, despite intimidation faced by tax advocates in some locales . As proposed legislation unfolds, research addressing the central question of how some jurisdictions but not others successfully pass SSB tax legislation would extend the evidence gathered from the Popkin et al. study. While cities like Berkeley are characterized as unique outliers for the passage of public health legislation, the highest-risk populations are not in such cities. Notably, SSB tax advocates in Philadelphia passed an SSB tax by framing the legislation as a funder of child education, not as a public health measure . The Berkeley measure, in its first year, raised over $1.4 million for the city, about $12 per capita .