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Small soda taxes insufficient to curb consumption among children, study finds
Date:3/31/2010

mposed on sodas and not other food items sold in grocery stores) are small, averaging 3.5 percent and none are larger than 7 percent.

The higher sales tax on soda in some states did seem to reduce soda consumption and curb weight gain among children at higher risk for obesity -- those who were heavier, children from low-income families, African-American children and those who watched a lot of television. Children in all these groups drank more soft drinks than children in general.

The impact was more pronounced for children from these groups who had access to soft drinks at school. Price effects may be stronger in school settings where cafeterias or vending machines round prices up, although there are alternative explanations, according to the study.

The fact that small sales taxes have no strong effect on consumption should not be surprising and the much larger soda taxes recently proposed in several areas are likely to have a much larger effect, Sturm said. An 18 percent soda tax proposed and then dropped from New York's Executive Budget last year, for example, could help prevent excessive weight gain between third and fifth grades by 20 percent.

In order for soda taxes to be most effective, researchers say they should be structured as an excise tax that would increase the shelf price of the product rather than a sales tax collected at the cash register. The latter may often not be clearly linked to the purchase of soda. One such approach to creating an excise tax would be to levy a tax on the sugar content of soda drinks.

"Soda taxes do have the potential to help reduce children's consumption of empty calories and have an impact on obesity, but both their size and how they are structured are key to whether they create measurable impact," Sturm said.


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Contact: Warren Robak
robak@rand.org
310-451-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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