Harvard Study Claims to Demonstrate Effectiveness of Soda Tax
A recent study has reportedly linked a 35 percent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to a 26-percent reduction in sales over a four-week period. Jason Block, et al., “Point-of-Purchase and Education Intervention to Reduce Consumption of Sugary Soft Drinks,” American Journal of Public Health, June 2010. Harvard University researchers apparently imposed the equivalent of a penny-per-ounce tax on all sodas and sweetened beverages sold in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital cafeteria. They also examined the effects of a stand-alone health education campaign and one implemented in conjunction with the 45-cent tax.
Their findings allegedly demonstrated that as the cost for sugar-sweetened beverages rose, (i) demand for these beverages declined; (ii) sales of coffee and diet soda increased; and (iii) consumers did not replace sugar-sweetened beverages with juices or other sugary snacks, “such as cakes and cookies.” When combined with the educational program, the tax resulted in an extra “18 percent decline in purchases of regular soda.”
As the lead author stated in a June 17, 2010, Harvard University press release, “Soft drinks have been increasingly recognized as a major contributor to the country’s growing obesity epidemic. A very aggressive response—such as a notable increase in the price of soda—may be needed to steer people toward healthier options.”