Associations Between State-Level Soda Taxes and Adolescent Body Mass Index

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation invests in research aimed at reducing childhood obesity. This study, part of a supplement of childhood obesity-related literature, found weak associations between state soda vending machine taxes and decreased body weight among heavier teens.

Adolescents have increased their soft drink consumption over the past two decades, coinciding with the emergence of an obesity epidemic in the U.S. Understanding associations between soda taxes, prices and consumption will determine how the government uses fiscal policy to reduce soda consumption among youth. This study investigated associations between soda taxes and body mass index (BMI) in 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students in the period 1997-2006. Data for student weight status came from the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study. Begun in 1971, MTF uses questionnaires to obtain height, weight and demographic information from nationally representative samples of students.

Key Findings:

  • Among the full sample there was no correlation between soda taxes and weight status.
  • There was a small statistical association between state soda vending machine tax rates and decreased body weight among heavier teens.

Researchers must continue to design studies that track how the government uses fiscal policy to influence soda consumption among adolescents.

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