A new study published Tuesday is being spun as proof that Philadelphia’s wildly unpopular soda tax is actually a great success.

Implemented in January 2017, Philadelphia’s tax on sweetened beverages amounts to 1.5 cents per ounce. Boosters for the policy claim a wide array of benefits, chief among them reducing obesity and promoting healthy lifestyles. Mayor Jim Kenney also hopes the tax will provide a steady stream of revenue to fund pre-K education. So, what are the results?

Published in JAMA, the study claims sales of taxed beverages dropped 51% between Jan. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2017. A spike in cross-border shopping offset 24.4 of this decline, meaning total sales fell 38%. The JAMA study differs substantially from an earlier working paper by Stanford Business School, which showed a more modest 22% overall decline in sales. Both studies showed little evidence of people switching to non-taxed drinks like water.

It shouldn’t come as a massive surprise that soda sales fall following an enormous tax hike, although that’s not always the case. But this relatively unremarkable finding is being treated as a great victory for bold public health policy. It’s a strange conclusion to reach considering the study contains “no data on beverage consumption or obesity rates.”

The Stanford paper, however, does examine consumption and could “not detect a significant reduction in calorie and sugar intake.”

So, instead of trumpeting any advance in health, the fact there has been a drop in soda sales at all is being hailed as a success.”Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages is one of the most effective policy strategies to reduce the purchase of these unhealthy drinks,” said Christina Roberto, who led the research.

The editorial accompanying the study concedes it provides no evidence the tax produced any health benefits but argues “current evidence is already sufficient to move forward with adoption of taxes while continuing to monitor outcomes.”

When you define success for soda taxes as any reduction in soda sales, you’re setting the bar so low you could trip on it.

We’ve been told repeatedly that slashing soda sales will reduce childhood obesity, prevent deaths, diabetes, tooth decay, and save money in healthcare costs. So before the goalposts are moved entirely off the pitch, it’s worth reminding ourselves that never and nowhere have these predictions come true.

In 2018, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research published a report examining 47 studies of sugar taxes. “We were unable to find evidence that any sugar tax actually implemented anywhere in the world has led to improvements in health,” said one of the study’s authors.

As for revenue, Philadelphia’s soda tax fell short of first-year projections by 15%, raising $79 million against an expected $90 million.

So, what has the soda tax achieved aside from driving business away from the city? According to the Stanford paper, the biggest declines in sugary drink consumption were among the wealthiest households who are the least likely to be obese. The burden of the tax fell heaviest on the poorest consumers who are also the most likely to be obese, least likely …read more

Source:: Daily times

      

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Spinning Philadelphia’s soda tax

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