Health should come before soda industry profits

Alina Agha

Last summer Philadelphia became the first big city in the nation to pass the “soda tax” — a tax designed to help reduce the consumption of sugary or carbonated drinks in the U.S. — following Berkeley’s implementation of the tax in 2015. With its implementation, the tax was starting to show benefits to the community. But now the beverage industry is pushing back against the tax, which is slowing down crucial progress made from its implementation.  

A lawsuit was brought forward by the American Beverage Association and other local businesses claiming the tax was hurting their business. But while businesses may be slowing, the tax is doing exactly what it’s supposed to. The purpose was to decrease soda consumption for the benefit of the health of consumers, and it’s working — soda consumption decreased by about 40 percent in Philadelphia since the implementation of the tax.

Philadelphia isn’t the only place where the tax is working. Berkeley’s consumption has decreased by about 20 percent, accompanied by over a 60 percent increase in water consumption. Moreover, studies have shown that Mexico’s soda tax decreased soda consumption by 5.5 percent and 9.7 percent in 2014 and 2015, respectively. 

Studies have shown that increasing soda consumption has a direct impact on increased weight gain and is a significant contributor to the obesity problem in the U.S. Taking away the soda tax may reverse the progress that has been made in the United States toward a healthier population, and will only benefit corporations trying to increase their profits.

In addition to health related benefits, profits from the soda tax can be directly used to benefit society further. Philadelphia has great plans to put these funds to use, including creating more pre-K seats and funding of community schools and other public amenities such as parks and other recreational facilities. More than 400,000 people in Philadelphia live below the poverty line and the city has the highest rate of deep poverty — income below half of the poverty line. Some pre-K expansions have already taken place, allowing students from low-income families to get an education instead of staying home all day, and continuing these expansions is likely to have a significant impact on the community’s well being.

Unfortunately, the legal pushback from the beverage industry has hampered the implementation of these programs. Philadelphia has to slow down their expansions, halting the progress it was making for the community. If this continues, Philadelphia will have to halt efforts to improve their residents’ health, education and recreational well-being. 

Legal threats from the corporations should not impede this tax from having the opportunity to expand across the U.S., so that other states can implement similar programs and continue to lessen the consumption of sugary sodas. Profits for the beverage industry must not be prioritized over the health and well-being of the population.

Agha is a public relations junior from Karachi, Pakistan. Follow her on Twitter @alinaagha96.