Report on NPR Finds Berkeley Soda Tax Working

Robb Davis pushes for a Davis Soda Tax last February
Robb Davis pushed for a Davis Soda Tax last February

NPR reporter Dan Charles this week on NPR’s signature “All Things Considered,” reports, “The nation’s first ‘soda tax’ on sugar-sweetened beverages, which went into effect in Berkeley, Calif., last year, appears to be working.”

The new UC Berkeley Study published on August 23 in the American Journal of Public Health found “a 21 percent drop in the drinking of soda and other sugary beverages in Berkeley’s low-income neighborhoods after the city levied a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Moreover, the study compared the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks in the months following implementation of the tax in March 2015 to San Francisco (where the soda tax measure was defeated) and Oakland, and found in those cities there was a four percent increase in consumption.

“Low-income communities bear the brunt of the health consequences of obesity and diabetes, so this decline in soda and sugary beverage consumption is very encouraging,” said study senior author Kristine Madsen, an associate professor of public health at UC Berkeley. “We are looking for tools that support people in making healthy choices, and the soda tax appears to be an effective tool.”

Berkeley residents were also surveyed on the consumption of bottled and tap water.  The study found a 63 percent increase in that consumption, compared to only a 19 percent increase in Oakland and San Francisco.

Just two percent of Berkeley residents reported that the tax led them to shop for sugary drinks in neighboring cities that do not have a soda tax.

“Not only was the drop in sugary drink consumption in Berkeley greater than we expected, the apparent shift to less harmful products like water is a very good sign,” Professor Madsen said.

The key finding here is that a tax COMBINED with a public-awareness campaign can reduce consumption of sugary beverages while increasing the consumption of water.

“While Berkeley is just one small city, this is an important first step in identifying tools that can move the needle on population health,” Professor Madsen said.

The Berkeley campus paper notes, “This latest UC Berkeley study focused on the short-term impact of the soda tax on consumption and cannot tell whether the post-tax decline was due to higher retail prices or a greater awareness of the health consequences of sugary drinks, which include obesity, diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay.”

“It’s possible that successful campaigning around the tax raised awareness of the health impacts of sugary drinks, which may have also shifted dietary choices in Berkeley,” said study lead author Jennifer Falbe, a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley.

Indeed, NPR spoke with John Cawley, a public policy and economic professor at Cornell University.  He believes that “a 20 percent drop is more than economists would have predicted, since the tax caused prices of sugary drinks to go up only modestly.”

Instead, he and others found “soda sellers did not pass the full cost of the tax on to consumers but absorbed somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of the cost themselves.”

“This is a big decrease” in consumption, Professor Cawley told NPR. “It makes complete sense that, when prices go up, people buy less. That’s the law of demand. So I did expect to see some kind of decrease in consumption, but this is a very large decrease.”

Professor Cawley also noted that “there is a relatively large margin of error in the estimates of beverage consumption.”  He said, “It will be interesting, as more information comes in, whether this finding holds up.”

“This isn’t the final answer,” says Michael Long, a professor of public health at George Washington University, “but it is consistent with what we know about how people respond to prices. This definitely adds a lot of information about reductions in reported consumption, and we’ll have to look further to see if we’re seeing reductions in sales data.”

Brad Williams, an economist with Capitol Matrix Consulting in Sacramento,  a consultant for the beverage industry, told NPR’s science blog, “The Salt,” that the successful pro-soda tax campaign in 2014, rather than the tax itself, may have led people to report that they were drinking less soda.

“There’s a limited price differential between sugar-sweetened and non-sugar-sweetened beverages, especially in chain stores,” he said. “It’s not like consumers are getting price signals, so to the extent that consumption was reduced, it was the result of the campaign” against sugary drinks rather than the tax.

While Berkeley was the first city to implement taxes, another two dozen U.S. cities have attempted to pass soda taxes, and failed.  However, in June, Philadelphia became the second city to pass a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks. Philadelphia’s tax, which will take effect in January 2017, will also include diet drinks.

Other cities like San Francisco, Oakland and Boulder will be looking into getting soda tax measures on the ballot this year.  Will Davis as well?

The Berkeley paper notes, “Berkeley’s 21 percent decrease in sugary beverage consumption compares favorably to that of Mexico, which saw a 17 percent decline among low-income households after the first year of its one-peso-per-liter soda tax that its congress passed in 2013.”

Last fall Davis seemed to have interest in a sugary beverage tax, only to see the council defer on the issue in order to study it more thoroughly.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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73 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    David

    Thank you so much for this article. Our council when considering this issue last year stated as two reasons for postponement, the lack of evidence of  efficacy and that there had not been time for adequate community conversation. While one city’s experience, or even one country’s experience does not prove that this would be an effective strategy for Davis, we at least now have some evidence in support.

    http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/94/4/16-020416.pdf

    I believe that it is time for those who claimed that there had not been enough time for community conversation to actively address this issue. It is time for us to follow the lead of Mexico and Berkeley, have the conversation, and get a measure ( which could be modeled on that of Berkley) on our own ballot.

    1. Matt Williams

      Tia, it is also fair to say that the Berkeley Soda Tax is also working here in Davis.  I know that my consumption of soda has decreased substantially since the subject of a soda tax was brought up here in Davis.  I suspect I am not alone in that behavior pattern change.

      1. Tia Will

        Matt

        You are not alone. I have now had several people tell me that they either decreased or stopped consuming soda altogether in response to my presentation to the City Council. So we know that education, or in this case increased awareness ,can cause behavior change.

        Think how much more powerful it would be coupled with an increase in price. Think also of the increased revenue which we all say that we need, but seem intransigent about supporting when it steps on our own “sacred cows”. No more taxes in this instance. But what if we were to specifically use these funds either for more education, or for infrastructure specifically designed to increase physical activity such as our greenbelts, pools,  playing fields or playgrounds ?  Would this not serve the dual goals of a healthier population and and an increase in revenue even if relatively small ?

        1. Barack Palin

           Think also of the increased revenue which we all say that we need, but seem intransigent about supporting when it steps on our own “sacred cows”.

          I’ve already stated that if a soda tax was earmarked for our roads I would support it.  But unfortunately we all know the funds will go to create yet another bureaucracy with many high paying public positions.

  2. Barack Palin

    Is this report really a surprise?  When you charge more for something people will use less of it.   It’s called social engineering.  But it also points out that education might be more of the reason for the drop in soda useage as many of us suggested would be the better way to go than the tax.

    That said, the study doesn’t seem to be very scientific.  Random questionaires distributed in low income districts?  While Berkeley supposedly had a 21% dip in soda consumption and a 63% spike in water consumption SF and Oakland had a 4% hike in soda consumption and a 19% hike in water.  So are people from SF and Oakland now magically drinking more soda and water than they did before?  It doesn’t make sense so I question the numbers.   Also were the two studies both done at the same time of the year in all three locations?

    I remember that the soda tax advocates stated that any studies funded by the soda industry should should be taken as biased.  Well the UC Berkeley study was supported by:

    The Global Obesity Prevention Center at Johns Hopkins University, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the University of California Office of the President helped support this research.

    Should we also be skeptical of this study?

    1. quielo

      BP, we are going to have to disagree on the disgusting fat people issue. As we move towards a common healthcare system decisions individuals make affect others. The increase in metabolic syndrome will completely overwhelm any  amount of money put into the healthcare system. While the Soda Tax is a small start we may have to wait for a respiratory virus to rescue us.

       

      The only large scale behavioral change we have been successful with is smoking cessation. that was built on the following principals:

      1: Increasing taxes

      2: Reducing access

      3: Inconveniencing users

      4: Public Service Announcements/Advertising showing users as disgusting

      We may have to replicate these steps in the battle against obesity.

       

       

      1. Woody

        Fat people are disgusting?  Obesity is a healthcare problem in this country and should be addressed appropriately but obesity is not disgusting.  Prejudiced people however, are disgusting.

        1. quielo

          Smoking is also a healthcare problem yet the government paid for billboards and other advertisements wizened old clones with yellow fingers and other negative images.

        2. Tia Will

          we are going to have to disagree on the disgusting fat people issue”

          Fat people are disgusting?”

          This is an absurd distraction that in my opinion does nothing to help with the basic heath care issue. Any of my patients who are reading should skip the next paragraph since you can probably recite it verbatim having heard it from me so often.

          This has absolutely nothing to do with physical appearance. What it has to do with is your health risks. It is opinion and nothing more whether or not you are beautiful, or physically, or sexually attractive. Those are opinions and in the eye of the beholder. What is not in the eye of the beholder is that women who consume large amounts of sugar whether in liquid or solid form are at an increased risk of number of serious medical conditions just as are women who consume more calories than they burn on a regular basis, just as are women who are sedentary. These risks include an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, an increased risk of diabetes with end organ failure including loss of eyesight, kidney function, loss of extremities, pregnancy complications and a variety of cancers including breast and uterine. These are facts. Not opinion. Not personal preference. Not about whether or not anyone does or does not feel offended by “fat shaming”.  Facts.

          We are facing a serious health care issue both locally, regional and nationally. We are already paying excessive amounts both in terms of money and the effects of disability both  personally and as a society for the largely preventable costs of obesity related illnesses and we want to spend time quibbling about whether or not “fat people are attractive” ?  Really….really ???

        3. quielo

          Tia,

           

          I cannot disagree with this more. My experience is that people get trapped in cycles of self loathing/hopelessness and medicate/distract themselves with substances.

          “This has absolutely nothing to do with physical appearance. What it has to do with is your health risks. It is opinion and nothing more whether or not you are beautiful, or physically, or sexually attractive.”

          My use of the word “disgusting” was hyperbole and I have compassion for people who cannot get to the point in their lives they would like to be. Eating, drinking,  resting, medicating, etc can separate us from obtaining our goals in life and needs to be addressed. That being said I do notice that people will feel free to be rude to a smoker while being circumspect with an eater.

        4. South of Davis

          Woody wrote:

          > Obesity is a healthcare problem in this country

          > and should be addressed appropriately

          America is not “addressing” the problem very well since something is very wrong when most times I go to the Woodland or West Sac Wal Mart there is not a single person over 16 that weighs less I do (a 6’+ athletic 50 something male) and I often see a dozen or more people that weigh DOUBLE what I weigh.  Just 30 years ago a 360 pound person would only be seen at the circus, today I don’t think you can go to Wal Mart without seeing at least a half dozen people that heavy.  Here in Davis things are not that bad (as areas with poor less educated people) but I am noticing a disturbing trend where about half the time I see parents (my age) with their (college age) wealthy well educated UCD kids the kids (actually “young adults”) are fatter…

    2. Eric Gelber

      “Should we also be skeptical of this study?”

      No one is above scrutiny; although, studies funded by the affected industry with a financial stake in the outcome should come under particular scrutiny for potential bias. But any study, regardless of who conducts or funds it, should be evaluated based on the methodology, analysis, and conclusions.

    3. Tia Will

      BP

      When you charge more for something people will use less of it”

      So is that a bad thing if the product in question is harmful and its consumption costs us many times its value in health care expenditures in the long run. Isn’t that exactly the point of the tax ?

      Should we also be skeptical of this study?”

      Of course we should. We should be skeptical of every single isolated  bit of evidence. It is the totality of the evidence that should be considered. Did you read the information on the experience in Mexico ?

  3. Topcat

    If we are really concerned about health and obesity, then we should be looking at the federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) program.

    According to the  U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the SNAP (AKA “Food Stamps”) program was originally designed to fight hunger and improve overall access to food for families and individuals in need. But under the current law, food stamps can be used to purchase “nonessential” items, including unhealthy foods like candy, cakes, and soda, and luxury items like steak and lobster. The program does bar recipients from purchasing alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, pet food, and hot or prepared food such as restaurant meals. By keeping food stamp recipients from purchasing unhealthy foods and luxury items, they will have more money for essentials like milk, juice, fruits, vegetables, granola bars, and peanut butter, reinforcing the system’s original intent.

    1. Tia Will

      TopCat

      I think that it is entirely reasonable to look at what is covered by the SNAP program periodically to determine if its funds are being used in a safe and effective manner. I see this as a reasonable adjunct to other measures such as the soda tax not as an alternative to it.

    2. South of Davis

      Topcat wrote:

      > If we are really concerned about health and obesity, then we

      > should be looking at the federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition

      > Assistance Program) program.

      Don’t forget the federal school lunch program (that feeds poor fat kids Froot Loops, Pop Tarts and Chocolate Milk every day) in Davis and around the US.

      You would think that we were trying to kill off the poor in America since after giving the poor kids crap at school all week we give their parents a card to buy chips, soda and even more Pop Tarts…

    3. Topcat

      I think that it is entirely reasonable to look at what is covered by the SNAP program periodically to determine if its funds are being used in a safe and effective manner.

      Yes, making adjustments in the SNAP program, which is a federal program, would have a far larger impact than small local city taxes in a few isolated cities. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service reports that as of September 2014, there were around 46.5 million individual food stamp recipients.

      1. Tia Will

        Yes, making adjustments in the SNAP program, which is a federal program, would have a far larger impact than small local city taxes in a few isolated cities.”

        I agree. However, it is my hope that the idea of sugary beverage taxation will not remain isolated to small local city taxes in a few isolated cities, but will spread rapidly. I would like to see this go nationwide as it has in Mexico. But in order to get broader acceptance there have to be some cities as demonstration models to show that it works.

  4. Barack Palin

    Three out of four Berkeley residents voted for the tax so can you rely on their feedback since most likely 3 out of 4 survey takers voted for the tax?

    The people who conducted the study look like they’re in the healthcare profession so did they have a bias when conducting and analyzing the survey and study?

    Also remember the positive glowing DWR foliage and food scrap pickup report.  Later that report was debunked by Rich Rifkin and a commenter on the V as being skewed due to some pertinent facts being left out.  So I take all this stuff with a grain of salt because we really never know all the facts or the agendas of the so-called experts conducting the studies.

    1. Frankly

      Don’t take it with a grain of salt because salt is bad for you.  No, salt is good for you.  No, salt is bad for you.  I can’t remember since those health science professionals keep changing it.  But hey, we can rely on their studies.  Right.

      1. Tia Will

        Frankly

        Don’t take it with a grain of salt because salt is bad for you.  No, salt is good for you.  No, salt is bad for you. “

        Ok…so you have tossed in a bit of humor. Now a serious question.

        Do you honestly believe that consumption of large amount of sugar in short amounts of time is good for the health of the average citizen ( not some specialized athletic use) ?

        I believe that you are very intelligent. I believe that you are intelligent enough to realize that a consistent pattern of rapid consumption of sugar in large quantities is not good for ones health regardless of whatever previous nutritional theories have or have not been refuted by evidence not available at the time the theory was originated.

        Talk about throwing an unrelated concern or example at the wall to see what will stick !  This is a masterful example of that approach.

  5. Eric Gelber

    Three out of four Berkeley residents voted for the tax so can you rely on their feedback since most likely 3 out of 4 survey takers voted for the tax?

    I’m not sure that’s a logical inference. But, in any event, your statistics are way off. It was 3 out of four registered voters who voted in the election who voted for the tax, not 3 out of 4 Berkeley residents voting for the tax. And, since Berkeley registered voter turnout was only about 50% in that election, it would be a relatively small percentage of all Berkeley residents who voted for the tax.

    1. Barack Palin

      But I think you could take that a step further and say that the Berkeley citizens that weren’t registered or didn’t vote would’ve most likely voted in line with the ones that did vote.

      Like Davis here, over 80% of the people who voted cast their ballot for Obama.  I would venture to say that if everyone that could vote in Davis actually did vote I don’t think the percentages would be much different.

      1. Eric Gelber

        It’s really hard for you to concede you were wrong about anything, isn’t it BP. It’s a leap of faith to say non-voters would vote the same way as voters. This is why, for example, pre-election polls typically look separately at likely voters. But you also assume that  supporters of the tax would misrepresent their consumption. Why would you assume that? Are you saying no survey would have been valid unless the vote had been split 50-50? Or no survey would be valid because everyone will misrepresent based on how they voted? There are inherent weaknesses with survey studies; but your argument against the validity of this survey is based solely on unsubstantiated assumptions.

        1. Barack Palin

          It’s really hard for you to concede you are wrong about anything, isn’t it Eric?

          But you also assume that  supporters of the tax would misrepresent their consumption.

          Yes, I don’t think that’s a stretch at all to think that they might fudge their numbers.  They voted for the tax so they are obviously an advocate for it.

          It’s like the voters that elected Obama, they’ll never admit that they made a mistake.

           

        2. South of Davis

          Eric wrote:

          > It’s a leap of faith to say non-voters would

          > vote the same way as voters.

          Have you ever seen (or even heard of) a poll in a city like Berkeley or Davis where there was a BIG difference in voters and non voters?

          > This is why, for example, pre-election polls

          > typically look separately at likely voters.

          I’ve worked on dozens of campaigns and I’ve never seen (or heard of) a poll with a BIG difference between the registered voters in a city and the residents of the city.

          If Eric can’t come up with a link to data to prove his point he should just say “sorry BP I was wrong about this and you were right”…

           

        3. Eric Gelber

          You don’t get it either SOD. Why would you assume those in favor of the tax would misrepresent their consumption? Do you have evidence? Do you assume everyone misrepresents based on how they voted (or based on how you assume they would have voted if they were interested enough in the issue to vote)? Keep in mind, the majority of Berkeley residents “voted” I don’t give a damn.

        4. Barack Palin

          Eric, a question for you.

          The study supposedly shows that soda consumption is up 4% and water consumption is up 19% in SF and Oakland over the last year.  Why would consumption go up in SF and Oakland when nothing has changed?  It’s not like soda consumption was down and people substituted water in its place like the study says happened in Berkeley.  I think this justs adds to the question of this study’s accuracy.

        5. Eric Gelber

          I think this justs adds to the question of this study’s accuracy.

          Good questions. I haven’t read the study and I’m not defending it. It may, in fact, be flawed. I was just commenting on the assumptions made earlier for questioning its validity, which I don’t think were warranted.

        6. Mark West

          “Good questions. I haven’t read the study and I’m not defending it. It may, in fact, be flawed. I was just commenting on the assumptions made earlier for questioning its validity, which I don’t think were warranted.”

          Google ‘self-reporting bias’ and read up on the problem. There are good reasons to be sceptical about the study and its authors’ conclusions.

  6. Tia Will

    quielo

    I cannot disagree with this more. My experience is that people get trapped in cycles of self loathing/hopelessness and medicate/distract themselves with substances.”

    I really need to clarify my point since I obviously was unclear. I in no way intended to imply that one’s health is not related to feelings of self loathing and or deleterious behaviors based on attempts to self soothe or self medicate.

    What I meant by “has nothing to do with” was that the perception of the attractiveness or lack of attractiveness of any particular physical characteristic has nothing to do with ones statistical risk of developing a disease based on that characteristic. Thus it does not matter if you are member of a society that prizes or dislikes what we consider to be medically obesity ( a BMI of = /> 30), the risk of the diseases attendant to that particular weight remain the same.

     

  7. hpierce

    Ok… a different slant… I drink maybe 2 medium size “sugary drinks” per year… zero at home, and the two are when I’m in a fast food place or restaurant, where I always order unsweetened iced tea, but I’ve already paid for the drink (fast food), and the dispenser is not ‘working’.

    If Davis adopted the “tax”, as neither the fast-food places nor restaurants differentiate between the two (sugary or unsweetened ice tea), I’d be paying the tax even tho’ I don’t consume a sugary drink!

    In addition, most fast-food places and restaurants/diners, charge only for the first ‘serving’, with refills unlimited… that practice, too would likely end, and I can give up my strategy to buy a “small” (light on the ice), and refill as necessary.  I’d be charged for every refill, because the tax proposed (so far) is based on ounces (total, including refills, presumably), and would be taxed for each one (each, having no sugar).  [And if the tax doesn’t include “refills” that flies in the face of the purported “intent”… otherwise a person pre-disposed to obesity/diabetes could order a small, and have unlimited refills of that sugary drink]

    And what about the sugar freely available for coffee, etc?  Should that not be taxed?  Only available on request, rather than at tables/counters?  Logic?  [sidebar… the “sugar tax” was a precursor to the ‘revolution’ from England for the colonies… somewhat ironic…]

    Finally, there are differences in sugar content per ounce, depending on drink (mine is basically zero when I get iced tea, which is my predominant drink of choice).

    Suspect I’ll be lambasted (but preferably without a sugar glaze) for this post.

    Unless the above issues are resolved, I will strongly oppose the BS sugary drink tax, as previously proposed.  If the sugary drink tax only applied to those who imbibe sugary drinks, and in proportion to the actual sugar consumed, I might be persuaded.

     

    1. South of Davis

      hpierce wrote:

      > most fast-food places and restaurants/diners, charge only

      > for the first ‘serving’, with refills unlimited

      It looks like every fast food restaurant will need to hire a $15/hr  “drink monitor” to keep track of how many ounces people drink so they can pay the proper tax.

      P.S. My idea of making every school kid with a BMI above 25 go to a Cross Fit boot camp for an hour every day after school will do more to make kids in town thinner than the sugar tax…

  8. Tia Will

    I would have no trouble with changing the provision of “free sugar” available self administration into ones drinks. Some restaurants already address this issue by providing one or two cubes with the beverages they serve. rather that free packets.  I see this as an easy item to remedy.

    As for dispensers of non sugary drinks such as unsweetened tea, I see no harm in using an honor system such is currently in place for water. There is nothing to stop someone from asking for a cup for water, but then using it to obtain a sugary beverage the way things are now. I suspect most people do not abuse this ability to “cheat” the restaurant out of the cost of the beverage…..but will freely admit that I could be wrong.

    1. quielo

      The other response (and more likely IMO) is the end of the drink bar. If you order a sugared beverage you pay more and get the volume ordered. Possibly the drink bar will be retained for unsweetened.

    2. tribeUSA

      Tia–hope you don’t give up promoting a sugar-tax initiative (a ‘vice’ tax); it’s got my vote. I remember my Dad (also a surgeon) used to tell me (decades ago) that sugar was ‘poison’ and encouraged me to avoid it; I laughed and thought he was greatly exagerrating–of course now the evidence is in that most people over-imbibe sugar; and sodas are mainly just sugar water (OK for hummingbirds; not healthy for humans). Some of the modern sugar substitutes, as in diet sodas, taste almost as good as sugar (although over-consumption of these substitutes is also possible).

  9. Tia Will

    Thanks for the encouragement tribeUSA

    I have no intention of giving up on any measure that I think has the possibility to improve our health. It is what I have done for the past 30 years. It is what I will continue to do. I am wide open to people’s thoughts about how we can become healthier both as individuals and as a society. What I have learned is that achieving good health requires a multifactorial approach. There is no one answer that will be useful for everyone. But with small steps we can incrementally make improvements. It happened with decreased smoking rates, we can be successful in the reduction of sugary products also, one step at a time.

  10. hpierce

    Ok… you are all seem to be supportive of me paying a sugary drink tax for unsweetened iced tea… don’t expect me to support that…  oh, guess that would be my moral imperative to solve others’ problems… perhaps we should treat water the same way…

  11. Tia Will

    hpierce

    you are all seem to be supportive of me paying a sugary drink tax for unsweetened iced tea”

    I think that you are probably familiar with the phrase penny wise, pound foolish. I believe that this expression fits the situation that you are describing. If the vendors were unwilling to change their practice to allow for you not to pay more for your unsweetened beverage ( which I already stated that I would support) then consider this comparison. You are objecting to paying pennies more for a beverage that you yourself said is not a regular item for you while the reality is that you will be paying much, much more for the health care of those whose health deteriorated into a series of ER visits related to their severe diabetes related infections, failing kidneys, and strokes and other forms of cardiovascular disease. Now you might not see how you end up paying for these, but you do in the form of increased hospital fees, drug fees and insurance premiums. We have not chosen to provide adequate medical care for everyone in our society ( Obamacare not withstanding) and we do not choose to allow people to die alongside the road.  If they can make it to an ER, they must receive at least care sufficient to stabilize them, and this is then done in the most expensive setting possible. If you don’t care about that individual, fine, you are not alone. But at least consider that prevention is much, much less expensive than is treatment. And we will all pay, one way or the other.

    1. hpierce

      Ok, you’re saying I should just shut up and eat my under-cooked brussels sprouts (yecch!) because they’re good for me… right…

      However,I do buy a lot of unsweetened iced tea…. will be much more than “pennies”…

      A parcel tax for obesity/diabetes prevention would be more fair…

      1. Barack Palin

        Comeon hpierce, you should know by now that the social engineers know what’s best for you.

        Yes, they want you to just shut up and do what they tell you.

    2. quielo

      Hi Tia,

       

      The corollary to a common healthcare system is that we are all responsible for each other’s decisions. Whether that is good or bad is an individual viewpoint. I was watching someone take their oath of citizenship once and in the group becoming citizens their was a morbidly obese woman in a wheelchair. My first thought was “Don’t want her in my club, she just expense”.

       

      While there is a lot of discussion about HCV and oncology drug prices currently the real money suck in the healthcare system is metabolic syndrome as it cuts across drugs, procedures, and facilities and the people don’t die for a long time so they rack up a lot of bills.

      Regarding this tax, we pay one way or the other

       

      1. hpierce

        It is statistically more likely that we will pay both ways… the sugary drink tax, plus taxes/medical insurance costs increasing in any case, with no discernible discount for those paying the tax.

  12. Tia Will

    hpierce

    It is true that you will pay both. However, what your comment is neglecting is how much less you will be paying on the medical expenditure side over the long term. So if your concern is only about how much you will pay out in the next year, you are correct. If you look at the broader picture of how much you will save in  indirect payments for ER visits over the next 10 years you would have much more actual disposable income if your soda tax efforts kept even one person from the lifetime costs of diabetes on the system. And you are also correct about the fact that the few cents you save will be “discernible” whereas the money saved on treatment will likely not be “discernible”.  However, the fact that you cannot “discern” it does not mean that it is not there and that it is not real just like the pre diabetic does not “discern” the damage that is being done to their body. But that is there, is real, and eventually may be discernible in the form of blindness, amputation, stroke, need for dialysis.

    1. hpierce

      The difference will be zero… I’ll be paying the taxes… IF the insurance premiums go down, they will go down ‘globally’… I’ll be paying the same as if I lived in any other area in CA (that doesn’t have the sugary drink tax)… in effect,I’ll be making a charitable donation, with no opportunity to deduct that…

      IF the SD tax was universal across the world, and applied to all sugary drinks wherever purchased,in whatever form, MAYBE I’d break even.

      You are positing a ‘theory’ that has no real basis in ‘reality’.  [This is where some would have us group-sing “Imagine”… and posit it as an ironclad promise]

      1. quielo

        No, first of all you are making several leaps which are uncalled for. One is that the tax will result in people who do not drink sugar water paying. This is completely unsubstantiated and is based on your speculation. Much more likely is a change in the way sugared beverages are dispensed which may or may not result in a change in the way unsugered beverages are dispensed.

        The principal, as I see it, is that taxes should reflect the cost of the goods to society. Despite BP’s reference to “social engineering” this is a trailing indicator. If you have a business that produces radioactive waste you may reasonable expect to pay more for it’s disposal than you would for wood chips. Likewise if you produce a product that burdens society with downstream costs it is not the job of other people (like me) to subsidize your profit on selling poison.

        1. Barack Palin

          Likewise if you produce a product that burdens society with downstream costs it is not the job of other people (like me) to subsidize your profit on selling poison.

          Quielo, you’re fairly new to this blog.  Believe me this has all been discussed on here to wit’s end.  Allowing taxes like this just opens the door to tax everything that social engineers feel burdens society.  Red meat, salt, sugared cereals, potato chips, cookies, cake, etc…..   I could go on forever.  Where do you draw the line?

        2. hpierce

          Let me be clear… I ave NO problem taxing the sugary drinks at the sources (producers)… to tax those consumers who buy beverages that are not “sugary” in Davis, is what I object to.

          Collateral damages, as it were…

        3. quielo

          BP

           

          “Where do you draw the line?” Like most people I would draw the line at those taxes that cost me more than they provide. I don’t drink sugared drinks and neither do my family. Let the fat pay more taxes, they deserve to.

        4. Barack Palin

          Quielo, that’s where we differ.  I don’t drink sugary sodas either so it won’t cost me much if anything but I’m against regressive taxes and having social engineers penalyzing people for what they feel others shouldn’t be doing.

        5. South of Davis

          quielo wrote:

          > I don’t drink sugared drinks and

          > neither do my family.

          First they came to tax the smokers, and I did not speak out

          Because I was not a smoker

          Then they came to tax the liquor drinkers, and I did not speak out

          Because I was not a hard liquor drinker

          Then they came to tax soda, and I did not speak out

          Because I my family does not drink soda

          Then they came to tax all food (since anything with calories will make you fat)—and there was no one left to speak for me…

          P.S. Some fruit juice has as much sugar and as many calories as soda.  If you eat enough fresh fruit you will get fat (so get ready for the apple and orange tax)

          http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/06/09/319230765/fruit-juice-vs-soda-both-beverages-pack-in-sugar-and-health-risk

           

  13. Albert Yang

    There is an article in the SF Chronicle about this (well, it was mostly about how Bernie Sanders opposed the tax.)

    http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/Big-Soda-gets-boost-from-the-Bern-in-SF-and-9188847.php?t=8b296f1ac6

     

    “The records show that in March 2015, when the tax went into effect, Berkeley collected $117,433 in sales taxes from high-sugar drinks. In February 2016, the most recent month for which figures are available, the city took in $115,968 — that’s a drop of just 1.2 percent in sales of the sweet stuff. Considering that February is shorter than March, the tax collections per day actually rose.”

    (I am aware that you cannot come to any conclusions based on this one piece of data, but it is still interesting.)

     

     

    1. Barack Palin

      Thanks for the article Albert.

      In an April 24 opinion piece in Philadelphia Magazine, Sanders called that city’s sugar tax proposal “a regressive grocery tax that would disproportionately affect low-income and middle-class Americans.”

      Actually tallying up the tax collections is a much better way to determine if the soda tax is indeed causing people to buy less than any on the street survey.

      the tax collections per day actually rose

       

    2. South of Davis

      Albert wrote:

      > that’s a drop of just 1.2 percent in sales of the sweet stuff.

      In my younger (making $3.35/hr days) I used to drink soda when I was feeling rich (had more than $20 in my wallet) I would often get a $0.59 soda to go with my burritos off the $0.59 “value menu” or pick up a six pack of soda at the store.  When I had less money I would skip soda and drink tap water.  I think most poor people do this so it is important to look at the big trends in sales not just a month of data.

      P.S. The big trends are that despite the overall drop in sugar soda sales per capita over the past 20 years they go up a little when when the economy is doing better and drop even more when we are in a recession and unemployment is higher.

      P.P.S. I bet soda sales would be cut in half if we made it illegal to buy soda with EBT cards…

      1. Topcat

        P.P.S. I bet soda sales would be cut in half if we made it illegal to buy soda with EBT cards…

        Yes.  Eliminating soda from SNAP eligibility would be a far bigger benefit to the health and obesity prevention than local soda taxes.  If we really cared about health and obesity, this is what we would be talking about.

        1. Mark West

          SNAP grew out of a farm support program. The primary sweetener used in sweet drinks is not the table sugar sucrose, the product that most of us think of when someone mentions sugar, but fructose, a product derived from corn. I doubt there is a commodity crop that receives more government subsidies, nor one that is less likely to be removed from SNAP.

           

      2. hpierce

        Hmmm… one could argue that keeping poor folk poor, cuts down on sugary drink consumption… maybe a good reason not to raise the minimum wage?  Avoid overtime pay for ag workers?

        No… that would be bad public policy and bad human ethics…

        Yet, I do believe we should do what we can to educate folk, and make sure we help folk meet their caloric needs without sugary drinks… the idea of disqualifying sugary drinks from being “groceries” sounds appealing…

         

        1. quielo

          “one could argue that keeping poor folk poor, cuts down on sugary drink consumption”. It’s not that simple. Poor people often make bad choices and end up paying more. They don’t drink sugar water to meet their caloric needs.

        2. hpierce

          Ok. Quielo… you picked up on one sentence…

          You apparently ignored,

          No… that would be bad public policy and bad human ethics…
          Yet, I do believe we should do what we can to educate folk, and make sure we help folk meet their caloric needs without sugary drinks… the idea of disqualifying sugary drinks from being “groceries” sounds appealing…

          I understand where you wish to discredit my opinion, to promote your view(s), but that was chicken-stuff… but, you are not the only one to ‘cherry-pick’…

        3. quielo

          People used to smoke everywhere. Now they don’t. We did not achieve that by “do what we can to educate folk,” No we did it by raising the cost of cigarettes, making them go out into the rain to smoke, and treating them like dirty pigs. No other method has been shown to work.

        4. hpierce

          Quielo… that might work!  Rise the cost of anything having sugar at least 100%, make obese people stand out in the rain when they consume sugar, and treat the obese like dirty pigs!

          When you have a good idea, it is truly wonder to behold!

           

  14. Tia Will

    If we really cared about health and obesity, this is what we would be talking about.”

    I believe that it is possible to care deeply about health and obesity, and be willing to talk about and promote many different means to address an issue. As a provider for over 30 years, it is my experience that some strategies work best with some patients, different strategies work best for others. I believe that the best approach is multifactorial with consideration of many different strategies. One good idea does not negate the value of others.

  15. Tia Will

    quielo and hpierce

    Well thanks for demonstrating how quickly a conversation can devolve to the least helpful level possible. Showing the truth of what can happen to individuals who engage in a given practice such as the memorable picture of the cigarette damaged lungs or the realistic portrayal of amputations due to the effects of Type II diabetes ( both of which are totally preventable in most cases) is hardly the same as “treating them like dirty pigs”.

    I suppose exchanges like that of 11:24 pm and 6:45 am  are more “fun”. But I guarantee you that this is not a game for me. Having seem first hand the consequences of these preventable illnesses up to and including death, it is very, very serious and each possible step to help prevent the illness from developing in the first place should be given serious consideration.

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