PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia’s tax on soda and other sweetened beverages did not reduce residents’ consumption of such drinks, according to a new study.

Philadelphians reported a slight but not statistically significant decrease in sugary beverage consumption compared with residents of nearby cities without a tax, Drexel University researchers found in surveys before and after the tax took effect.

“We have ample evidence that sugary beverages are connected to type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other health issues, but we’re seeing that raising the price of sugary beverages may not impact consumers who don’t drink a lot of soda,” Amy Auchincloss, an associate professor at Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health, said in a statement about the research.

Philadelphia became the first large U.S. city to pass a tax on soda, in 2016. Mayor Jim Kenney championed the tax as a means of funding pre-K, community schools and improvements to parks, recreation centers and libraries. Public health advocates praised Philadelphia’s levy and have pointed to taxes on soda as a means of reducing consumption and improving residents’ health.

Drexel researchers surveyed Philadelphia residents during a 30-day period when the tax was first implemented, and followed up again a year later. They also included residents of Camden, Trenton and Wilmington in the random telephone survey of 515 adults.

A year after the 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax took effect, researchers said 39% of Philadelphians reported drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, compared with 34% of adults in other cities. But the researchers said that difference was not statistically significant.


The Drexel study was published this month in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Several other studies of Philadelphia’s tax have focused on the tax’s impact on beverage sales and overall store sales. The City Council voted to complete its own economic study of the tax last year. It has not yet been released.

A previous study published in September — by researchers at Cornell University, the University of Iowa, and Mathematica Policy Research — found that the tax had reduced adult consumption of soda by 31%, and that Philadelphians drank about 10 fewer taxed beverages per month compared with residents outside the city.

But Drexel researchers noted that the previous study focused on lower-income residents who lived with children and drank an average of one sweetened beverage per day. The researchers said their study was more reflective of typical adults; 25% of participants reported drinking sugary beverages every day.

Doctoral student Yichen Zhong, the lead author on the study, said the lack of reduction in consumption found among residents could be explained by “the availability of untaxed beverages outside the city limits, the still relatively lower price of these drinks compared to healthier ones and marketing and advertising.”


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