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Spinning Philadelphia's soda tax



A new study published Tuesday is being proof of Philadelphia's wildly unpopular 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 pre-K education. Published in JAMA, the study claims sales of taxed beverages dropped 51% between Jan. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 201

7. 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 at 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 sales fall into 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 is a strange conclusion to reach 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, there has been a drop in soda sales at all 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, it provides no evidence of 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 now 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 any tax in the world anywhere in the world," said one of the study's authors.

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

According to the Stanford paper, the biggest declines in sugary drink are consumption among the wealthiest households who are most likely to be obese. The burden of the tax fell heavily on the poorest consumers who are also most likely to be obese, least likely to cut back on soda, and least able to avoid the tax.

The case for these taxes is now so weak that demonstrating an elementary law of economics is reason enough to extend them to the rest of the country. By erroneously equating any decline in consumption with improved health outcomes, campaigners absolutely themselves, or actually having to try to reduce taxes obesity.

The health benefits of such taxes remain notional, found only in the heroically optimistic models of researchers and campaigners invested in. making a monster out of sugary drinks. In the real world, it's the poorer consumers of places like Philadelphia who bear the brown these taxes for no commiserate gain.

Guy Bentley ( @ gbentley1 ) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential Blog. He is Director of Consumer Freedom at the Reason Foundation. [Function] (f, b, e, v, n, t, s) {if (f.fbq) return; n = f.fbq = function () { n.callMethod?
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