Apr 1, 2010
Published In: Health Affairs, v. 29, no. 5, May 2010, p. 1052-1058
Posted on RAND.org on April 30, 2010
Taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages have been proposed to combat obesity. Using data on state sales taxes for soda and individual-level data on children, we examine whether small taxes are likely to change consumption and weight gain or whether larger tax increases would be needed. We find that existing taxes on soda, which are typically not much higher than 4 percent in grocery stores, do not substantially affect overall levels of soda consumption or obesity rates. We do find, however, that subgroups of at-risk children-children who are already overweight, come from low-income families, or are African American-may be more sensitive than others to soda taxes, especially when soda is available at school. A greater impact of these small taxes could come from the dedication of the revenues they generate to other obesity prevention efforts rather than through their direct effect on consumption.