A report from public health experts found that people in Berkeley drank fewer sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) after the city passed an excise tax on them. They also drank more water. A lot more water.
The report, Impact of the Berkeley Excise Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption, examined changes in pre- to posttax beverage consumption in low-income neighborhoods in Berkeley versus in the comparison cities of Oakland and San Francisco, California.
Consumption of SSBs decreased 21% in Berkeley and increased 4% in comparison cities. Water consumption increased more in Berkeley (+63%) than in comparison cities.
Researchers used a beverage frequency questionnaire administered to 990 participants before the tax and 1689 after the tax (approximately 8 months after the vote and 4 months after implementation) to examine relative changes in consumption.
Their conclusion? Berkeley’s excise tax reduced SSB consumption in low-income neighborhoods. Additionally, evaluating SSB taxes in other cities will improve understanding of their public health benefit and their generalizability.
The study was conducted by Jennifer Falbe, ScD, MPH, Hannah R. Thompson, PhD, MPH, Christina M. Becker, BA, Nadia Rojas, MPH, Charles E. McCulloch, PhD, and Kristine A. Madsen, MD, MPH. Falbe, Thompson, Becker, Rojas, and Madsen are with the School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley. McCulloch is with the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco.