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Health

Do Soda Taxes Help Reduce Childhood Obesity?

Recent research indicates that children residing in Seattle exhibited a more significant reduction in their body mass index (BMI) following the implementation of a soda tax compared to children in nearby untaxed areas. Published in JAMA Network Open, the study analyzed BMI changes among over 6,300 children aged 2 to 18 in urban Seattle, King County, Snohomish, and Pierce counties, before and after Seattle’s 1.75 cents per ounce tax on sugary beverages took effect in 2018.

Lead author Jesse Jones-Smith, from the University of Washington School of Public Health, explains that the study utilized BMIp95, a measure indicating a child’s BMI percentile relative to peers of the same age and sex. Children in Seattle showed a decrease in BMIp95 from an average of 84% before the tax to 82% after implementation, compared to a decrease from 86% to 85% in non-taxed areas.

The study observed larger BMIp95 reductions among Seattle children across various demographics, including gender, race, socioeconomic status, and insurance type. These findings are consistent with previous research linking sugar-sweetened beverage taxes to lower average BMI among children in other cities like Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Oakland.

Jones-Smith emphasizes the potential health benefits of such policies, noting evidence suggesting reduced purchasing of sugary drinks and corresponding improvements in children’s BMI. The study supports the effectiveness of soda taxes in potentially mitigating childhood obesity.

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