What made Berkeley’s sugar-sweetened beverage excise tax successful? A new study by NPI-affiliated researchers answers that question.

Aug 14, 2020

Berkeley, California made history by passing the nation's first sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax paid by beverage distributors in 2014, which garnered unanimous support from City Council and 76% of the vote in a public referendum. NPI-affiliated researchers Jennifer Falbe (lead author) and Kristine Madsen published a new article titled “Implementation of the First Sugar-Sweetened  Beverage Tax in Berkeley, CA 2015-2019” in the American Journal of Public Health. The article identifies policy and contextual characteristics that made the tax a success, shares recommendations for other cities, and highlights two critical findings. First, this tax on the beverage industry generated over $9 million that was invested into the community through public health and health equity programs. These programs aim to prevent the diseases caused by SSBs. Examples include the public school's Gardening and Cooking Program, a Head Start obesity prevention program, and Healthy Black Families' programs to reduce racial health inequities. The City's SSB tax advisory committee, which represents community and expert voices, was instrumental in making these investments, which are featured in short videos by The Praxis Project. Second, interviews with retailers indicated that beverage industry claims that SSB taxes amount to “grocery taxes” that raise food prices were false.

The article was published online ahead of print on July 16, 2020. Authors include Jennifer Falbe, UC Davis Department of Human Ecology; Anna H. Grummon, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Nadia Rojas, UC Berkeley School of Public Health; Suzanne Ryan-Ibarra and Lynn D. Silver, Public Health Institute; and Kristine Madsen, UC Berkeley School of Public Health and Berkeley Food Institute. Read the complete article online.


By Danielle L. Lee
Author - Policy Analyst | Nutrition Policy Institute