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CHOICES Research Cited in Philadelphia Soda Tax Media Coverage

Two months ago, the CHOICES Project released a brief examining the cost-effectiveness and impact of the proposed three-cents-per-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage tax in Philadelphia. The analysis—which found that the policy would prevent thousands of cases of childhood and adult obesity, prevent new cases of diabetes, increase the number of healthy years lived by residents, and save more in future healthcare costs than it would cost to implement—was frequently cited in media coverage leading up to the June city council vote on the tax:

Harvard University researchers are projecting major health benefits if Mayor Kenney’s proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is enacted. Within a few years of the three-cents-an-ounce tax’s beginning, they forecast, nearly 2,300 diabetes diagnoses would be prevented annually, and eventually, 36,000 people a year would avoid obesity. Over a decade, about 730 deaths would be averted, and close to $200 million saved in health spending. “It is just a total winner of a policy from a public health perspective,” said Dr. Steve Gortmaker, who led the analysis. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Philadelphia’s proposed sugary drinks tax would prevent approximately 36,000 cases of obesity and save $197 million by 2025, according to a non-peer-reviewed analysis from Harvard University. The research brief also projects that the tax would prevent 730 deaths over 10 years and lead to 2280 fewer diabetes cases per year. “Greater health benefits will accrue to low-income consumers who on average consume more [sugar-sweetened beverages] than higher income consumers,” the report noted. [Philly Voice]

Researchers from Harvard University’s CHOICES project found that Mayor Jim Kenney’s recently introduced 3 cent per ounce sugary drink excise tax will “increase healthy life years and save more in future health care costs than it costs to implement….” Philadelphia’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Tom Farley, who previously served as New York City’s Health Commissioner under Mayor Bloomberg, was impressed with the study’s projections of important health benefits. “This research underscores that the sugary drinks tax is a win-win-win,” he said in a written statement. “There’s no other single policy we could implement that would have this widespread, generational impact.” [Forbes]

On June 8th, a preliminary vote by a committee of the Philadelphia City Council approved a 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax—half of the original proposal—which was further modified to include beverages containing artificial sweeteners, such as diet soda. In response to inquiries on how reducing the tax would affect the estimated health impact, CHOICES researchers adapted the model to estimate a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks (not including diet drinks in the model): “We’d expect over 12,000 cases of obesity prevented by the end of the 10-year period, as well as $65 million in health care cost savings over the 10-year period,” Michael Long said in an interview with NPR. CHOICES researchers later updated the model to estimate the 1.5-cents-per-ounce excise tax with diet beverages included.

The 1.5-cent-per-ounce excise tax was formally passed by the city council on June 16th in a 13-4 vote, making Philadelphia the first major U.S. city to adopt a tax on sugary drinks. Advocates are describing the vote as a “tipping point,”  saying that the measure will pave the way for similar policies throughout the country.

Full list of coverage:

  • “Harvard study: Soda tax would make Phila. Healthier” [Philadelphia Inquirer]
  • “Philadelphia soda tax could help prevent diabetes, avert deaths” [Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health News]
  • “Besides funding pre-K, soda tax could help people cut sugar intake” [Philadelphia Inquirer]
  • “Philly’s Proposed Soda Tax Could Save Lives And Millions In Health Spending” [UPROXX]
  • “Harvard study: Philly’s soda tax would save $197 million in health-care costs” [Philly Voice]
  • “Philadelphia Sugary Drink Tax Would Significantly Reduce Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, Says Study” [Forbes]
  • “Will 2016 Be the Year of the Soda Tax?”  [Take Part]
  • “In the soda-tax fight, money’s flowing from Big Soda like a Big Gulp” [Philadelphia Inquirer]
  • “Why the soda tax is not the real regressive” [Philadelphia Inquirer]
  • “Harvard Researchers Say Philly Soda Tax Could Save $197 Million” [CBS Philly]
  • “What Bernie Gets Wrong About the Soda Tax” [Mother Jones]
  • “Doctors, nurses: Philly would be healthier with drinks tax” [Philadelphia Inquirer]
  • “Taxing Sugar to Fund a City” [New York Times]
  • “Study Could Boost Fizzled Efforts to Tax Soda” [Governing]
  • “Diabetes in Philly: The neighborhoods hardest hit by this ‘regressive’ disease” [Billy Penn]
  • “Advocates see Phila. vote as ‘tipping point’ in soda wars” [Philadelphia Inquirer]
  • “Can The Soda Industry’s $4 Million Ad Blitz Fend Off A Sugary Drink Tax?” [NPR]
  • “As Philadelphia Passes a Soda Tax, Supporters See a Growing Movement” [Take Part]