WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND— A new study published in the international Obesity Reviews journal found that sugar sweetened beverage (S.S.B.) taxes are effective at reducing sales, purchases and dietary intake of sugary beverages.
Researchers from the University of Otago, New Zealand, conducted a meta-analysis of 17 real-world tax evaluation study outcomes, examining the impact of S.S.B. taxes in Berkeley, Calif.; Portland, Maine; Cleveland and Philadelphia as well as regional and country-wide taxes in Catalonia, Chile, France, and Mexico.
In each case the study found a reduction in sugary drink consumption, though the impact of the taxes varied significantly across jurisdictions. The report found taxes with sugar thresholds and volumetric taxes, where beverages with more sugar are taxed at a higher rate, tended to be more successful at driving down consumption than taxes applied as a percentage of price.
Several studies included in the meta-analysis examined whether S.S.B. taxes result in increased consumption of non-taxed beverages like water, milk, juice and diet/light and zero beverages. In all but one of the cases where this outcome was reported, there was a significant increase in untaxed beverage consumption.
The study concluded that larger taxes will result in greater declines in soda and sugary beverage consumption, but cautioned that other characteristics, like country context and tax design, also may play an important role. Other factors, including border elasticity, consumer preferences, level of wealth and baseline S.S.B. consumption levels also influenced tax outcomes. High consumers and the less wealthy, for example, tended to be more price responsive.