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Vox Media's podcast The Impact has examined New York City's and Chicago's approaches to combating obesity, including Chicago's imposition of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). A reporter first speaks to employees of an initiative in New York that encourages corner-store owners to stock more healthy foods, and she finds that the results have been middling. The podcast then turns to Chicago's tax on SSBs, which was enforced for two months before it was repealed. "The Cook County soda tax became so toxic that nobody wants to talk about it anymore," the reporter reveals. "This was by far the hardest episode of our season to report because people kept turning down my interview requests. I asked six different county commissioners to talk to me for this story. Five of them said no." "Right now, there isn't great evidence that healthy corner store initiatives have a big impact on obesity. There's…

Washington voters have reportedly approved a ballot measure that will prevent the state legislature from implementing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). The measure will not repeal Seattle's tax but will prevent other local governments within the state from imposing new SSB taxes. A similar initiative in Oregon failed to pass; critics of the measure reportedly argued that the language could be broadly construed to apply beyond groceries to food served in restaurants.

Nielsen has announced the results of a survey of U.K. consumers comparing opinions about sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) before and after the country's SSB tax took effect in April 2018, finding "minimal impact on consumer behaviour." The survey reportedly found that 62 percent of consumers "claim to have not changed their consumption behaviour in any way post-sugar tax, and only one fifth are checking sugar content on packages more frequently since the tax has come into effect." Further, 11 percent of consumers indicated that they would stop drinking SSBs before the tax took effect, but that number has dropped to one percent. "The number of people who said they would continue to buy sugary soft drinks also, surprisingly, grew post-tax, increasing from 31% in February to 44% in June," Nielsen's press release states.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court’s ruling upholding Philadelphia’s tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), holding that the tax is not preempted by state law. Williams v. Philadelphia, Nos. 2 EAP 2018, 3 EAP 2018 (Pa., entered July 18, 2018). The 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax, which took effect in January 2017, applies to SSB distributors rather than buyers and thus does not duplicate consumer sales tax, the court held.

The American Heart Association, Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition and Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition have filed a lawsuit to appeal and amend the ballot title and summary of an initiative that would ban Washington's local governments from levying new taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). In re Ballot Title & Summary for Initiative No. 1634, No. 18-2-01924-34 (Wash. Super. Ct., filed April 9, 2018). The petition alleges that after Seattle's SSB tax took effect January 1, 2018, beverage industry groups filed the initiative in an attempt to stop other jurisdictions from adopting similar taxes. The petition also alleges that the ballot title and summary are “misleading and prejudicial” because they purport to ban new taxes on "groceries," a measure that the advocacy groups predict would be “disfavored” by voters.

The Ninth Circuit has granted an en banc rehearing of its September 2017 decision to block a San Francisco ordinance requiring health warnings on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) on the grounds that it unduly burdened and chilled speech protected by the First Amendment. Am. Beverage Ass’n. v. City & Cty. of San Francisco, No. 16-16072 (9th Cir., entered January 29, 2018). The September ruling overturned a 2016 district court decision determining that the city’s interest in public health and safety was a reasonable basis to enforce the ordinance, which required black-box warning labels on all advertising for SSBs that could take up as much as 20 percent of the advertising space. In addition, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to Philadelphia’s SSB tax that claims the 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax violates state law; the challengers allege that because the tax is levied on distributors and ultimately borne by…

A state senator in Pennsylvania has reportedly announced plans to introduce a bill that would bar any municipality in the state from levying a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). If enacted, the bill could invalidate the 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax that took effect in Philadelphia in January 2017 after a failed challenge in court. Although Rep. Mark Mustio (R-Allegheny) represents part of the Pittsburgh area, he has been critical of the effect of the tax on Philadelphia retailers, claiming that grocery stores have experienced as much as a 20 percent drop in revenues as consumers crossed over to suburban counties to buy SSBs and other items.

University of Sydney researchers have apparently found an association between adolescents’ consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and oral health or obesity. Louise Hardy, et al., “Association between adolescents’ consumption of total and different types of sugar-sweetened beverages with oral health impacts and weight status,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, November 22, 2017. The authors noted a higher association between dental disease and “new generation” SSBs—diet soft drinks, sports drinks and flavored water—than the association found with other SSBs. The study reported that while daily consumption of SSBs is prevalent among adolescents—90 percent reported drinking at least one cup per day—SSB intake was “more consistently associated” with oral health problems than extra weight or obesity. More than 3,500 youths aged 10-16 participated in the study, which surveyed SSB intake, height and weight measurements, physical activity, dental health and demographic information. Although the study reported that clinical dental examinations…

The Scottish Government is seeking public comment on a consultation that proposes actions to improve diet and reduce obesity in Scotland. The government previously announced funding of more than $55 million over five years to limit the marketing of food high in fat, sugar and salt and provide weight-loss support for people with type 2 diabetes. The consultation, which is open through January 31, 2018, asks questions about promotions and marketing, “out of home” or restaurant eating, labeling, product reformulation and taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages or similar products. Scotland is also considering proposals to limit “junk food” advertising and provide support for small and mid-sized food manufacturers to reformulate and develop healthier products.

Chicago officials have voted to repeal a sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax approved in November 2016 by the Cook County Board of Commissioners but delayed by a lawsuit arguing that the tax was unconstitutional. The tax took effect in August 2017 after a court dismissed the Illinois Retail Merchants Association's lawsuit. Retailers reportedly saw SSB sales decline 25 to 50 percent, while retailers with locations in surrounding counties not subject to the tax saw sales increase. In addition, the Chicago Tribune reported, "Internal polling for one Cook County commissioner showed more than 90 percent of constituents opposed the soda tax.” The repeal will take effect December 1, 2017. Other jurisdictions continue to experiment with SSB taxes. In April 2018, Ireland will begin taxing non-alcoholic, water- and juice-based drinks with an added sugar content of 5 grams or more per 100 milliliters. Pure fruit juices and dairy products will be exempt from the…

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