Sales of sugary drinks in Berkeley, California have decreased sharply since the city levied a tax on sweetened beverages a year ago, according to a new study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine.
Researchers from the Public Health Institute in Oakland and the University of North Carolina determined that sales of pop, energy drinks and other sweetened beverages have declined by nearly 10 percent since the tax -- the nation’s first -- took effect.
Public health advocates had lobbied for the tax, arguing that it would reduce consumption of the high-calorie drinks and lower the rates of obesity and obesity-related health problems – particularly among young people.
However, the study also showed that sales of sugar-sweetened beverages increased by almost seven percent, suggesting that people may be buying them outside of Berkeley in order to avoid the tax.
The beverage industry and store owners opposed the tax, although the study showed that small businesses did not see a decrease in overall sales, as predicted.
Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association (AHA), said the study “study adds to the compelling evidence that simply cannot be ignored. The residents of Berkeley, who voted for a sugary drink tax in their community, are now seeing the benefits of significantly reduced consumption of sugary drinks, significantly increased consumption of water and consumers are switching to healthier drinks.”
Brown urged the beverage industry to pay attention to the evidence and “embrace these policies that benefit the health of communities, local businesses, their company employees and the very customers they serve. By doing so even more communities, and especially children, will experience a lifetime of health benefits.
“Spending millions to fight local citizens working tirelessly to improve their community puts the beverage industry on the wrong side of health and history.”