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Committee members: Rickie Brawer and Robert Simmons, Thomas Jefferson University.


The goal of this study was to analyze sugar-sweetened beverage tax policy as one strategy to fight America’s obesity epidemic. Obesity is an enormous problem that plagues individuals worldwide. The prevalence of obesity is high in this country, exceeding 25% in 33 states. In Pennsylvania in 2009, 27.7% of adults were labeled as obese. Additionally, there are many more Philadelphians who are overweight or obese (900,000) than who are at a healthy weight (600,000). Obesity is extremely complex and has several causes. One cause of obesity and the main concern of this study is the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest single source of added sugar in the American diet. The average sugar-sweetened beverage contains about 17 teaspoons of sugar in every 20-ounce serving. The ever-rising obesity rates have caused policy-makers to evaluate the causes of this epidemic and take action where possible. A beverage tax option that would change consumption patterns while also raising revenue for the locality may be the best option. An excise tax of one cent per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages is projected to increase the price of sweetened drinks by 17% on average and reduce their consumption by a minimum of 10%. Sugar-sweetened beverage taxes have been attempted in many US cities and states, including Philadelphia, New York, California and Kansas. This study analyzes the legislation efforts of these locations as well as a national model by the National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity (NPLAN). The study concludes by proposing sugar-sweetened beverage legislation. The intent of the tax is to diminish the human and economic costs of obesity, discourage excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and to create a dedicated revenue source for programs designed to prevent and treat obesity and health conditions that result from it.

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