Over the past five years, more than 40 cities and countries around the world have passed a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. These soda taxes are designed to improve public health—but do they? Or have all the doom-and-gloom predictions of the soda industry come true instead? Researchers have been crunching the data, and in this episode we have the scoop: Do soda taxes work? We’ve also got the story of how the soda industry is fighting back, with dirty tricks in Colombia and blackmail in California. Finally, are soda taxes even the best intervention for improving public health? We have brand-new results from a radical, world-first experiment in Chile. Listen in now as we reach the epic finale of the great soda wars!
When the first modern soda tax in the United States passed in Berkeley, California, in 2014, public-health advocates were elated. They saw it as the first step toward finally tackling the city’s growing rates of obesity, particularly among kids, and the start of a wave of similar measures across the country. Meanwhile, the soda industry had argued the taxes would cause significant job losses and economic hardship for the poor, that people would just buy soda elsewhere, and that the taxes wouldn’t work to reduce consumption anyway. Who was right? This episode, we talk with the researchers Sara Bleich, Barry Popkin, and Kelly Brownell, who have been monitoring the first few years of the soda taxes’ implementation in Berkeley, Philadelphia, Mexico, and elsewhere to find out how well the taxes worked.