Overall beverage sales increased.
Berkeley introduced the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in March 2015.
Consumers' average grocery bill did not increase because of the tax.
This study won't stop Big Soda from claiming that taxes don't work.
In an effort to curb soda consumption and subsequently reduce obesity and type 2 diabetes rates, six US cities have rallied to the soda tax initiative in 2016.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, shows that a year after Berkeley's soda tax took effect in 2015, the city saw a almost 10 percent drop in purchases of sugary drinks and a almost 16 percent increase in sales of bottled water.
STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar (s) contributes to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay.
It applies to regular soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, sweetened juice drinks, flavored waters, RTD sweetened coffees and teas.
They also worked out whether changes in prices of drinks reflect the tax amount of one cent per ounce in various stores.
The study found that the volume of sugar sweetened beverages sold in Berkeley declined by 9.6% in the year following implementation; sales of healthier beverages rose (meaning there was no negative impact on overall beverage sales); and overall grocery bills (consumer spending per checkout) did not go up.
Sales of diet soft drinks and diet energy drinks fell by 9.2% during the same period, the study results indicated.
However, while purchases of sugary drinks dropped in Berkeley, they rose in surrounding Bay Area cities by 6 percent - prompting the question of whether residents simply shifted their soda buying to other cities without a soda tax.
When looking at store revenues and consumer grocery bills, both numbers dipped slightly.
"These findings suggest that sugary drink taxes make health and economic sense".
As of an estimate made in August 2016, the tax was on track to collect about $1.5 million a year.
The authors acknowledge that their observational study can not establish causal links between SSB taxes and changes in measured outcomes, nor assess health outcomes. Mexico and a few other countries now have soda taxes, while the United Kingdom and South Africa plan to implement soda taxes in 2018.
Similar taxes have recently been passed in San Francisco, Oakland & Albany in California, Philadelphia (PA), Cook County (IL) & Boulder (CO). Seattle and Santa Fe are also thinking about it.
Taxes on SSBs are also set to be introduced in the UK (April 2018) & South Africa. But the study's findings show that it's "been a home run", she said.
"Evaluation of taxation in jurisdictions with more typical SSB consumption, with controls, is needed to assess broader dietary and potential health impacts." .
PHI did the study in collaboration with the University of North Carolina and support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The war on obesity and sugary drinks has been gaining traction all over the USA but beverage companies are fighting back. PLoS Med 14 (4): e1002283.
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