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Estimating the Potential of Taxes on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages to Reduce Beverage Consumption and Generate Revenue

Andreyeva T, Chaloupka FJ, and Brownell KD. Preventive Medicine, 52(6): 413-416, 2011.

Objective: Beverage taxes came into light with increasing concerns about obesity, particularly among youth. Sugar-sweetened beverages have become a target of anti-obesity initiatives with increasing evidence of their link to obesity. Our paper offers a method for estimating revenues from an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages that governments of various levels could direct towards obesity prevention. 

Model: We construct a model projecting beverage consumption and tax revenues based on best available data on regional beverage consumption, historic trends and recent estimates of the price elasticity of sugar-sweetened beverage demand. 

Results: The public health impact of beverage taxes could be substantial. An estimated 24% reduction in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption from a penny-per-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage tax could reduce daily per capita caloric intake from sugar-sweetened beverages from the current 190-200cal to 145-150cal, if there is no substitution to other caloric beverages or food. A national penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could generate new tax revenue of $79 billion over 2010-2015. 

Conclusion: A modest tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could both raise significant revenues and improve public health by reducing obesity. To the extent that at least some of the tax revenues get invested in obesity prevention programs, the public health benefits could be even more pronounced.

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