Sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes are increasingly being considered as a strategy for addressing the obesity epidemic. We sought to investigate the differential impact of targeted beverage taxes on higher- and lower-income households.
This analysis relied on data from the 2006 Nielsen Homescan panel, which included a national sample of households that scan and transmit their store-bought food and beverage purchases weekly for a 12-month period. We assessed associations among beverage prices, energy intake, and weight using multivariate regression models.
A 20% and 40% tax on carbonated SSBs only would reduce beverage purchases by a mean (SE) of 4.2 (1.6) and 7.8 (2.8) kcal/d per person, respectively. Extending the tax to all SSBs generates mean (SE) reductions of 7.0 (1.9) and 12.4 (3.4) kcal/d per person, respectively. Estimated mean (SE) weight losses resulting from a 20% and 40% tax on all SSBs are 0.32 (0.09) and 0.59 (0.16) kg/y per person, respectively. The 40% tax on SSBs, which costs a mean (SE) of $28.48 ($0.87) per household per year, would generate $2.5 billion ($77.5 million) in tax revenue, with the largest share coming from high-income households.
Large taxes on SSBs have the potential to positively influence weight outcomes, especially for middle-income households. These taxes would also generate substantial revenue that could be used to fund obesity prevention programs or for other causes.