A new study found that Seattle residents bought seven percent more beer after the city implemented a soda tax in 2018.
Drinking in the Emerald City has increased by five percent compared to neighboring West Coast city Portland since the introduction of a tax on sugary drinks, according to a study by University of Illinois-Chicago researchers Lisa M. Powell and Julien Leider, published last month in the journal. PLUS ONE.
“There was evidence of a replacement for beer following Seattle’s introduction of the SSB tax,” the authors concluded.
In June 2017, Seattle City Council members voted 7–1 to implement the tax, according to the Seattle Times. The tax is 1.75 cents per ounce, which adds up to about $1.18 per two-liter bottle.
Critics of soda taxes say they often target low-income households and that they don’t work, even though studies show declining sales of sodas. Similar taxes were introduced in Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; San Francisco and Boulder, Colorado.
The tax resulted in a “36 percent reduction in consumption of taxed beverages for children and a 33 percent reduction in consumption for adults,” according to a 2020 analysis of low-income residents.
The Seattle City Council passed a soda tax in 2017. It was introduced on January 1, 2018 at a rate of 1.75 cents per ounce, which adds up to about $1.18 for a two-liter bottle.
The Seattle soda tax was first proposed by former Democratic mayor Ed Murray, who was criticized for not including diet sodas in the plan.
Sales of beer and alcohol generally up compared to Portland, but wines are down
Washington State has the highest excise tax on liquor in the country at $35.31 per gallon, although the alcohol tax does not apply to beer, making it a cheaper and more attractive alternative.
The tax led to a decrease in the purchase of carbonated drinks.
Previous research, also by Powell, found that the amount of sugar sold with tax-deductible drinks was down 23 percent from Portland a year later.
“After accounting for substitutions, there was a net reduction of 19 percent in grams of sugar sold from taxable beverages,” Powell said, according to The Counter. “So, of course, there was some offset, but at the end of the day there is still a significant decrease in the amount of sugar sold in grams.”
Researchers from the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Public Health – Seattle and King County surveyed 315 low-income children and their parents before the tax went into effect, six months after, and 12 months later, according to the University of Washington. School of Public Health.
According to a 2020 analysis, the tax resulted in “a 36 percent drop in consumption of taxable beverages for children and a 33 percent drop in consumption for adults.”
A study last month showed that the volume of beer sold in Seattle two years after the tax increased by seven percent, while the volume of wine decreased by three percent.
The study only measured sales in stores selling alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
It does not take into account sales of beer or wine in liquor stores or restaurants, which means the increase could have been larger.
“Good Seattle residents have responded to the sugary drink tax by buying more beer,” Christopher Snowdon wrote in response to the study, according to Reason.
Snowdon is director of lifestyle economics at the Law Institute of Economic Affairs, a London-based think tank.
The authors of the study say previous studies “found strong evidence” that some people switched to other drinks, especially bottled water, after the soda tax was introduced, but some estimates in Philadelphia and Cook County, Illinois, “found no evidence » this.
Ultimately, the authors call for “continued monitoring of potential windfalls associated with the introduction of SSB taxes” in future tax assessments.
They pointed to a “higher risk of traffic accidents/deaths, cirrhosis of the liver, sexually transmitted diseases, crime and violence, and workplace accidents” associated with switching to beer.
Christopher Snowdon, director of lifestyle economics at the right-wing Economics Institute, tweeted about the study earlier this month.
The Seattle soda tax was first proposed by former Mayor Ed Murray, a Democrat.
Murray was briefly criticized for not taking into account diet sodas, which studies showed were more likely to be consumed by wealthier and white residents.
Diet drinks were not included in the final plan.
“I remain happy to sign legislation that makes corporations responsible for profiting from products that put people’s health at risk, especially the health of young people,” Murray said during the signing ceremony, according to KING-TV.
“This is a huge win for Seattle,” Victor Colman, director of the Seattle Coalition to Prevent Childhood Obesity, said after the tax was passed in 2017.
“This is not a panacea for childhood obesity, but taking this step is an important step. Consumption will drop and we will see better health in the communities that need it most.”
More than 40 percent of Americans are obese, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the agency estimates that the condition costs Americans about $150 billion a year.
Powell and Leider, the authors of the study, previously found that sales of sugary drinks fell 30.5% in the months following the tax.
The tax generated more than $22 million in revenue in 2018, $7 million more than the city had forecast, according to the Seattle Times.
But in 2018, Washington state voters approved a statewide ballot initiative to bar other municipalities from imposing such a tax.
Beverage companies spent $20.3 million to support the ban, according to Vox.