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PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia’s tax on sweetened beverages led to a 38.9 percent drop in the volume of taxed beverages sold at small, independent retailers and a significant increase in the price of taxed beverages, according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

This study builds on previous research that suggests beverage taxes can help reduce purchases of sugary drinks, led by Christina Roberto, PhD, an associate professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Penn, and senior author on this latest paper published in Health Affairs.

“Beverage taxes are a win-win: they decrease purchases of sugary drinks that are making us sick, and in Philadelphia, also raise revenue for important programs supporting children’s education,” Roberto said.

In January 2017, Philadelphia implemented an excise tax of 1.5 cents per ounce on sugar- and artificially sweetened beverages, to raise revenue for education initiatives. This is the first study to examine the impact of the tax on volume sales at small stores.

Christina
Christina Roberto, PhD

Researchers report that a year after Philadelphia’s tax on sweetened beverages went into effect, the price of taxed drinks in the small independent stores they studied increased by 1.81 cents per ounce and the volume of taxed beverages sold had dropped 38.9 percent.

The research team found larger declines in taxed beverage purchases at stores in neighborhoods where there are higher rates of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes. These data indicate that sweetened beverage taxes are an effective policy tool for reducing sugary drink purchases among at-risk populations.

Roberto and the rest of the research team conducted the study to examine sugary beverage purchases in 134 small independent stores in urban areas. They compared changes in beverage prices and purchases before and twelve months after tax implementation at small independent stores in Philadelphia and an untaxed control city, Baltimore, Maryland.

“This study provides important additional evidence that beverage taxes are one of the most effective policy tools we have to decrease sugar-sweetened beverage purchases,” Roberto said.

This study was supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Additional Penn authors include Laura Gibson, PhD, an assistant research professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Jiali Yan, MS, a data analyst of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and Nandita Mitra, PhD, a professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, as well as researchers from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Drexel University, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Philadelphia Department of Health.

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Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $8.6 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $494 million awarded in the 2019 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center—which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report—Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 43,900 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2019, Penn Medicine provided more than $583 million to benefit our community.

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