It Looks Like Berkeley’s Soda Tax Is Working

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Berkeley, California, may have just made a dent in the nation’s ongoing debate over whether to tax soft drinks.

Soda taxes have been floated in a number of other cities and states for years but were often defeated by intense lobbying from the beverage industry, the New York Times reported.

Berkeley became the first United States city to pass a soda tax in March of 2015. (Philadelphia followed as the first major U.S. city to pass such a tax in June.) Since then, consumption of sugary drinks has decreased by 21 percent in Berkeley’s low-income neighborhoods, while actually increasing by 4 percent throughout similar neighborhoods in San Francisco and Oakland, according to a study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Public Health.

The tax’s real public-health impact — including its effects on the diabetes and obesity epidemics — will take years to measure, Urban Institute fellow Donald MarrontoldPacific Standard. But these initial results look promising.

Water consumption has also increased in Berkeley by 63 percent, outpacing a 19 percent spike in comparison cities, the AJPH study found. With this momentum, the healthier-drinks movement might have struck a major blow against “Big Soda.”

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