The effect of soda taxes beyond beverages in Philadelphia

Health Economics

48 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2021 Last revised: 13 Dec 2022

See all articles by Felipe Lozano-Rojas

Felipe Lozano-Rojas

University of Georgia - Department of Public Administration and Policy

Patrick Carlin

Indiana University

Date Written: July 18, 2022


Soda taxes are implemented in several cities across the US with the aim of reducing sugar intake from sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs). Sugar is linked to obesity and to higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. Sodas are targeted with these taxes since they are the main source of sugar for consumers in the US. In presence of potential substitutes, the policy can be undermined by consumers changing their sources of sugar. We examine the heterogeneous effects of the 2017 Philadelphia soda tax on purchases of other items containing sugar.

We present an empirical evaluation focusing on the potential substitution towards additional sugary foods in Philadelphia and counties bordering Philadelphia. We find an increase in sugar from purchases of sweetened foods of about 4.3% following the introduction of the tax in Philadelphia and of 3.7% in the neighboring localities. The substitution to sugary foods in Philadelphia offsets 19% of the decrease of sugar from SSBs. Additionally, we find that the substitution offsets 37% of the decrease of sugar from SSBs when including counties bordering Philadelphia. These results suggest that while SSB taxes might be effective at lowering consumption of SSBs, substitution patterns may limit the effectiveness of the tax to reduce overall sugar intake.

Keywords: Soda Taxes, Taxation and Behavior, Local Governments, Health Policy

JEL Classification: H21, H22,H23, H71,H75,I12, I14, I18

Suggested Citation

Lozano-Rojas, Felipe and Carlin, Patrick, The effect of soda taxes beyond beverages in Philadelphia (July 18, 2022). Health Economics, Available at SSRN: or

Felipe Lozano-Rojas (Contact Author)

University of Georgia - Department of Public Administration and Policy ( email )

Baldwin Hall, 355 S Jackson St
Athens, GA 30602
United States
812 9296717 (Phone)


Patrick Carlin

Indiana University

107 S Indiana Ave
100 South Woodlawn
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics