Soda Taxes, Soft Drink Consumption, and Children’s Body Mass Index

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Small taxes on sugar-laden soft drinks have little impact on consumption or childhood obesity, although there may be more visible effects on subgroups of children who are overweight, from low-income homes, African-American or who watch a lot of television.

Soda and other high-sugar beverages have been taxed at the local, state and federal levels as a way to reduce consumption among children and teens. According to this report, in 2007 a total of 28 states had differential soda taxes, or higher soda taxes compared with taxes on other food items.

By observing state sales taxes on soda and individual-level information on children, researchers found that children consume six sodas a week, on average. Fifteen percent of youth did not drink any soda, 25 percent drank soda daily, and 10 percent had two or more sodas a day. Soda sales at schools in states with higher taxes were low, and data showed that four-fifths of children do not buy soda at school.

Researchers looked at Body Mass Index in relation to taxes on and consumption of soft drinks. While there was no relationship between taxes and consumption, there was a significant relationship between taxes and BMI change. Higher soda taxes were associated with lower BMI growth for already heavy children.

The report suggests that although soda sales in schools are low, helping to lessen consumption, for a more measurable effect on soda consumption, soda taxes would have to be raised.

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