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Berkeley’s Soda Tax Is Working

Residents are drinking less soda and way more water

San Francisco Board Of Supervisors Proposes Putting Soda Tax On Nov. Ballot Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Despite whatever Coca-Cola’s shady scientists may have claimed, soda is bad for you. One controversial solution to getting Americans to drink less has been to tax it — and guess what? It seems to be working.

The famously liberal city of Berkeley, California became the first in the U.S. to enact a soda tax last year, at a rate of one cent per ounce (so 12 cents on the average can). While it’s only been 18 months since Berkeley’s tax went into effect, so far it seems to be accomplishing exactly what was intended: As Vox reports, a new study published this week in the American Journal of Public Health shows soda consumption by low-income residents fell by 22 percent; meanwhile, water consumption surged by a whopping 63 percent.

Proposed soda taxes have been struck down in a number of U.S. cities (largely thanks to well-funded lobbyists), with opponents arguing that such taxes actually hurt lower-income households the most or decrying them as a "nanny state" tactic. But with rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes both surging, soda taxes do double duty by discouraging consumption and raising funds for public health programs.

Philadelphia became the second U.S. city to pass a soda tax in June of this year, though only time will tell if it will be as successful as Berkeley’s in reducing people’s dependence on sugary drinks. But as Vox points out, "the really urgent question is whether these taxes will make a dent in obesity over the longer term."

Berkeley Put a Tiny Tax on Soda. Consumption Plummeted by 21 Percent. [Vox]

The Nation’s First Soda Tax Passed in Berkeley, California [E]

All Soda Tax Coverage [E]