Those who blame sugary beverages for America’s obesity problems have often advocated for a tax on such items to cut consumption. Philadelphia enacted such a tax in January and signs are it has definitely cut purchases of sugary soda in the city.
Indeed, a local Pepsi bottler announced layoffs this week, blaming decreased sales in the 40-50% range on the Philadelphia tax. Some critics say it’s just scare tactics to get the tax rolled back while others tout the amount of money the tax has raised for local schools.
But I’ve yet to see any reports on the health impact of the tax. Cook County, where I live and where Chicago is located, is about to enact its own soda tax of 1-cent-an-ounce effective July 1. Beverage industry backers already are predicting dire job consequences here. And the county is saying it needs the money, framing the tax as a fiscal rather than merely a health issue.
A study on the impact of a sugary beverage tax in Mexico found consumption dropped 5.5 percent in 2014, the first year of a Mexican tax on soft drinks, and an additional 4.2 the following year but I found no mention fo health impact in that study.
So I’d say the jury is still out on the health impact of taxing one food group thought to contribute to obesity.
I’m guessing people who drank soda are finding other ways to satisfy their sweet cravings that involve a lot of calories as well. I don’t think any one food or beverage can be blamed for obesity, the problem is much more complex than that.