Tax on sugary drinks improves health, reduces health care costs

Oaklanders have bought fewer sugary drinks since the local “soda tax” went into effect, and that’s likely improving their health and saving the city money, a new study by UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley has found.

According to the study published on April 18 in PLOS Medicinepurchases of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) fell 26.8%—compared to similar cities not subject to the tax—between July 2017, when the one-cent-per-ounce tax took effect, and December 31, 2019 Mr.

The research comes just over a year after the National Commission on Clinical Care (NCCC) — formed by Congress to advise on diabetes policy — recommended lawmakers pass a national tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. California cities were among the first to adopt such taxes, but beverage industry lobbying led state lawmakers to bar cities and counties from imposing new taxes on SSBs in 2017, although existing taxes in Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley and Albany was bet.

Voters already have evidence that allowing such taxes can bring significant benefits to society, and we hope that state and national lawmakers will act on these findings.

Dean Schillinger, Ph.D

Past research has found that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Just last month, a UCSF study found that SSB taxes in five cities, including Oakland, significantly reduced the risk of diabetes and unhealthy weight gain in pregnant mothers. It also reduces the risk of a fetus that is too small.

“These latest results suggest that taxes on SSBs can significantly improve diet and health and generate significant cost savings over an extended period of time, all of which support the case for a national tax on SSBs,” said Dean Schillinger, MD, PhD. professor of medicine at UCSF, senior author of the study and co-chair of the NCCC. “The American Beverage Manufacturers Association pushed the California Legislature to pass the law prohibiting additional taxes on SSB in our state. Voters already have evidence that allowing such taxes can bring significant benefits to society, and we hope that state and national lawmakers will act on these findings.

As of 2021, seven US cities and more than 35 states have enacted SSB taxes in an effort to reduce the risk of diet-sensitive chronic diseases and increase government revenue for health promotion.

More cost effective than smoke free workplaces

The researchers compared purchases of sugary drinks in Oakland with purchases in nearby Richmond, California, and Los Angeles, where there is no beverage tax. They looked at consumer behavior in these cities in the 30 months before and after the tax went into effect on July 1, 2017.

They then used computer modeling to estimate how reduced SSB purchases affect community health as measured by quality-adjusted life years (QALYs)—a QALY is a year of perfect health. They also calculated the health care cost savings of preventing or controlling SSB-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and gum disease.

Consuming 26.8% fewer SSBs over 10 years added 94 QALYs per 10,000 residents and saved the city more than $100,000 per 10,000 residents in health care costs, the researchers found, with gains expected to accrue over a lifetime . They found no evidence that consumers were crossing borders to buy sugary drinks at neighboring duty-free locations, or that they were substituting sugary snacks for taxed SSBs.

“Our estimates suggest that this tax is at least as cost-effective as other widely recognized public health interventions, such as smoke-free workplace policies and air pollution control measures,” noted first author Justin White, PhD, is an associate professor of health economics at the UCSF R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies.

Purchases were down in Oakland for all types of SSBs, including sweetened soda by 23.1%, fruit drinks by 30.4%, sports drinks by 42.4% and sweetened teas by 24.4%. The declines in purchases were similar for individual and family products and similar in lower and higher income areas.

“Studies of other U.S. cities have found similar reductions in SSB purchases like this,” Schillinger said. “The lasting impact of the Oakland tax is particularly significant. This suggests that if the SSB tax is scaled nationally, our country will enjoy better health and lower healthcare costs.

The current study may have underestimated the health benefits of the SSB tax because the researchers did not account for the positive impact of local nutrition and public health programs funded by tax revenue in Oakland, Schillinger added.

While previous studies have found that taxes on SSBs lead to fewer purchases and less intake of SSBs in the short term, this is among the first to examine sustained declines alongside other purchasing behaviors, such as “substitute” purchases of sugary snacks. and the first, which evaluates cost-effectiveness.

authors: In addition to Schillinger and White, authors include Sanjay Basu of Waymark Health, Scott Kaplan of the US Naval Academy’s Department of Economics, Christine Madsen of the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, and Sofia Vilas-Boas of the UC Department of Agriculture Berkeley and Resource Economics.

Financing: This work was supported by grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R01 DK116852 and 2P30 DK092924), the California Foundation, the UCSF Diabetes Family Fund, and the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention diseases Health promotion (U18DP006526).

Disclosures: Please see the document for a complete list of disclosures.

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