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Hot Topics: Soda Tax Did Not Affect Soda Consumption

Jackie Werner Hot Topics in Research, Public Health

Sugar-Sweetened and Diet Beverage Consumption in Philadelphia One Year after the Beverage Tax

Zhong Y, Auchincloss AH, Lee BK, McKenna RM, Langellier BA. Sugar-Sweetened and Diet Beverage Consumption in Philadelphia One Year after the Beverage Tax. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020; 17(4):1336. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17041336

In January 2017, Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) implemented an excise tax ($ 0.015/ounce) on sugar-sweetened and diet beverages. This study is a general population-based study to report on the longer-term impacts of the tax on within-person changes in consumption 12 months after implementation. A quasi-experimental difference-in-difference design was used to contrast Philadelphia vs. nearby comparison cities (Trenton, New Jersey; Camden, New Jersey; and Wilmington, Delaware) at baseline (December 2016–January 2017) vs. 12-month follow-up (December 2017–February 2018). A random-digit-dialing phone survey was administered to a population-based cohort. Analyses assessed changes in 30-day consumption frequency and ounces of sugar-sweetened and diet beverages (and a substitution beverage, bottled water) in the analytic sample (N = 515). After 12 months, relative to the comparison group, Philadelphians were slightly more likely to decrease their frequency of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption (39.2% vs. 33.5%), and slightly less likely to increase their frequency of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption (38.9% vs. 43.0%). The effects of the tax estimated in the adjusted difference-in-difference analysis were very small (for example, changes in monthly sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in Philadelphia relative to comparison cities was −3.03 times or −51.65 ounces) and confidence intervals were very wide. Results suggested that, one year after implementation, there was no major overall impact of the tax on general population-level consumption of sugar-sweetened or diet beverages, or bottled water. Future studies should test whether the tax’s effect differs in vulnerable sub-populations.