Soda May be More Taxing Than You Think


By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

Sometimes it’s so hard to stick to our health and fitness goals, we have to get motivation through financial incentives. For example, there are multiple fitness apps out there, such as PACT, which provide users who eat healthy and go to the gym a chance to reap cash rewards from other users who do not practice these healthy habits.

Now imagine if you had to pay more money for some of your favorite junk food items such as soda. That’s now a reality for some Americans!

Sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes are not yet nationwide, but many American cities (including the ones listed below) now enforce such taxes.

  • Albany, California
  • Berkeley, California
  • Oakland, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Cook County, Illinois (a county that includes Chicago)
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Seattle, Washington

So what exactly is this tax?

Referring to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, “[s]tates and municipalities can add an excise tax or a sales tax to the current price of soda, fruit drinks, energy drinks, tea or coffee drinks, sports drinks, or other sugar sweetened beverages to increase the price of those beverages.”

An excise tax charges a fee per ounce. So, a 1 cent excise tax on a 20-ounce soda bottle is 20 cents. A regular sales tax simply charges a percentage of the product’s price.

Money generated from these taxes are reportedly used to subsidize healthy foods and support other public health efforts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), SSBs are leading sources of added sugars in the American diet, which may increase the risk of developing a variety of issues, including diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, heart disease, kidney diseases and more.

A report from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says, “[c]urrent estimates are that the mean intake of added sugar by Americans accounts for 15.8% of total energy and that the largest source of these added sugars is non-diet soft drinks, which account for 47% of total added sugars in the diet.”

As you can imagine, makers and executives behind products like Coke are not happy about these taxes. The American Beverage Association constantly criticizes these taxes and says, “what goes in a person’s grocery cart is their business.”

On the other hand, a recent study examining the impact of the SSB tax in Berkeley, California, a year after being enforced, showed sales in ounces of taxed SSBs fell by 9.6% in relation to predicted sales without the tax. Sales of untaxed beverages (such as water) rose 3.5% and total beverage sales rose in Berkeley.

The study reports sales of water rose by 15.6%, plain milk by 0.63% and untaxed fruit, vegetable and tea drinks by 4.37%.

The main takeaway from the study is “...SSB taxes may be effective in encouraging consumers to purchase healthier beverages without causing undue economic hardship and while raising revenue for social objectives.”

It’s a win/win situation and a step local governments across the country can take to be more proactive about the health of residents.

Need more incentives to stay away from sugary beverages? Diets high in refined sugar may be harmful to your brain and cause depression. Some reports say soda may even deplete your intake of vitamins and minerals.     

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.   


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