Lost Opportunity to Reduce Sweetened Beverage Consumption Following Cook County Tax Repeal
A new study led by P3RC Director, Lisa Powell, found that following the repeal of the Cook County, IL Sweetened Beverage Tax (SBT), the volume sold of taxed beverages returned right back to pre-tax levels.
Taxes such as those on cigarettes, alcohol or sweetened beverages are implemented with the dual goals of raising tax revenue and reducing consumption of the targeted products in order to reduce harms associated with consumption. There are 2 key mechanisms through which health taxes may lead to reduced consumption: 1) taxes are expected to raise prices which will reduce demand for the taxed products and 2) the fact that the product is being taxed by the government may implicitly signal that its consumption should be reduced and, key stakeholders may provide explicit signals, such as through media campaigns, to inform the public of the health harms associated with consumption.
In this study, Powell and UIC co-author Julien Leider examined weekly food store scanner data from two years before the tax was implemented, for four months while the SBT was in place, and for eight months after the tax was repealed. This interrupted time series approach allowed the team to assess whether any effects of the reduction in volume sold found while the Cook County SBT was in place persisted after the tax was repealed. In short, the results showed that those reductions did not persist following the repeal and suggest that the tax did not change public perceptions of the health risks associated with sweetened beverage intake.
In the UIC Today article below, Dr. Powell remarked that “we know that the tax worked to bring down demand for sweetened beverages significantly while it was in place.” Its repeal “was a missed public health opportunity. If it had stayed in place, we could have seen a lasting reduction in consumption of sweetened beverages, which are linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease which, in turn, have recently been found to be associated with increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”
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[The Cook County Sweetened Beverage Tax repeal] was a missed public health opportunity. If it had stayed in place, we could have seen a lasting reduction in consumption of sweetened beverages, which are linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease which, in turn, have recently been found to be associated with increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.Study lead author and P3RC Director|