Would The Soda Tax Offer Health Benefits For Baltimoreans

According to a Harvard study, commissioned by Health Food America, a tax on sugary beverages and soda would reduce obesity and diabetes in Baltimore. The tax revenue of $25.6 million will be go towards health programs.The researchers, who were involved in the study, focused on 15 major cities and the impact the excise tax on sugary drinks, all agreed that significant economic and health benefits across the board. Charlotte, North Carolina; Denver, Colorado; Louisville, Kentucky; Detroit, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix, Arizona; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Indianapolis, Indiana; Jacksonville, Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; San Jose, California; Los Angeles, California; Seattle, Washington; San Diego, California and Baltimore were among the 15 cities analyzed in the report.

Executive director of Healthy Food America Jim Krieger said, “We are hoping that by showing the potential significance of this, more people will consider a tax in their communities.”

The retail and beverage industries have been lobbying against such taxes. Executive vice president of the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Beverage association Ellen Valentino said, taxes imposed on sugary beverages in West Virginia and Arkansas have had little impact on health. Valentino went on to say, both states rank among the states with the highest rates of obesity in the nation. Retailers believe the tax could potentially hurt business without having impact on health.

The Balance Calories Initiative, a program aimed to reducing beverage calories consumption by 20 percent per person by 2025. The beverage industry has utilized the program to help reduce the negative health impact of sugary beverages. Caloric values are now posted on the back of sugary beverage bottles or can and the exterior packaging, where the consumer can easily find it.

Data from the U.S. Census, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data was comprised together along with a computer micro-simulation model of each city was utilized for the research. A 1-cent-per-ounce excise tax was projected for each state.

In Baltimore, the study showed that the tax would have a huge impact on obesity, with 4,950 fewer cases. Diabetes would decline by 6 percent, cutting health care costs by $31.6 million over a decade.

Policymakers and the public are gradually beginning to support the idea of taxing sugary beverages, which is a positive sign. Berkeley, California was the first U.S. city to adopt the sugar tax in 2014, followed by San Francisco, California and Albany California, just this year. Philadelphia and Boulder Colorado also adopted the taxes this year.

The tax would raise prices on sugary beverages by 16.3 percent, causing consumption to drop by 20 percent, according to the researchers.

“The fact of the matter is that taxes on common grocery items don’t make people healthier — just poorer,” said Cailey Locklair Tolle, president of the Maryland Retailers Association. “Baltimore City needs to focus on attracting and retaining the current grocery stores, not on a policy that will chase retailer sales and jobs to surrounding jurisdictions.”

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