In 2014, elected officials sold Berkeley, Calif., on a beverage tax. They said it would cut calories and reduce obesity. But research shows the opposite is true.
The numbers from a study by tax supporters says that Berkeley residents consumed 6 fewer calories per day from taxed beverages. But they more than offset this number with a 32-calorie per day increase from consuming high calorie, non-taxed beverages, such as milkshakes, smoothies and horchatas.
People also flocked to stores neighboring Berkeley, which showed the highest increase in sales of beverages with sugar. When stores within Berkeley chose to absorb the tax, they reduced their income – hurting their business and their employees.
As experts have said, beverage taxes may generate revenue that line government coffers, but they don’t deliver real or lasting health behavior change. In cases like Berkeley, taxes even drive increased calories – on top of economic losses and higher costs for working families.