Soda Taxes, Soft Drink Consumption, and Children's Body Mass Index

Taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages have been proposed to combat obesity. Using data on state sales taxes for soda and individual-level data on children, the authors examine whether small taxes are likely to change consumption and weight gain or whether larger tax increases would be needed. They find that existing taxes on soda, which are typically not much higher than 4 percent in grocery stores, do not substantially affect overall levels of soda consumption or obesity rates. The authors do find, however, that subgroups of at-risk children—children who are already overweight, come from low-income families, or are African-American—may be more sensitive than others to soda taxes, especially when soda is available at school. A greater impact of these small taxes could come from the dedication of the revenues they generate to other obesity prevention efforts rather than through their direct effect on consumption.

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