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Philadelphians Drinking More Water, Less Soda After Tax - Carlos Gamino
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Philadelphians Drinking More Water Less Soda After Tax

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By Carlos Gamino

In January 2017, the city of Philadelphia imposed a sugary drink tax that impacted soda and other sweetened drinks – and according to a new study, the tax was directly responsible for cutting soda consumption by about 40 percent.

“The Philadelphia beverage tax is one of the largest beverage taxes implemented in the U.S. so far,” says Yichen Zhong of Drexel University, the lead author of the study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Berkeley implemented something similar about three years ago, and studies have also shown that consumption of sugary beverages declined there, as well, though by only about 20 percent.

Supporters of the tax in Philadelphia, who include public health advocates, say that the tax can help encourage healthy diets and address Type-2 diabetes. The beverage industry disagrees, fighting a legal battle to stop the tax and claiming that the beverage tax conflicts with the Pennsylvania sales tax. 

The city taxes sweetened drinks at 1.5 percent per ounce, which it says has brought in millions of dollars. The funds are going toward city-wide programs, including a prekindergarten program that helps low-income families.

However, some grocery owners say that business is down. 

“Overall, my business is down by 15 percent – an unsustainable drop in an industry with tight margins,” said Jeff Brown, who owns a handful of Sho pRite stores in Philadelphia. 

What Do You Think?

Should cities implement taxes like these to fund programs at the potential cost of declining revenues for shop owners? Is it right for the government to impose taxes on sugary drinks, or are officials overstepping their bounds by invading people’s dietary choices? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please join the conversation on my  Facebook page or  Twitter.

Carlos Gamino