Letter to the Editor: Philadelphia soda tax has led to improved health, education

Letter to the Editor by Dr. Sanul Corrielus, as published in The Hill, Thursday June 13th

David Ketchen writes that “the results from Philadelphia’s city-level soda tax should worry anyone contemplating an equivalent national program.”

He has it completely backwards. All Americans want better health, a good education for our kids, and a strong economy. Philadelphia’s sweetened beverage tax has succeeded on all three counts.

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Every year, 40,000 people living in the United States die from heart related complications as a result of consuming too many sugary drinks. As a nation we need to drink fewer of them, and Philadelphia’s tax has delivered. The most comprehensive study conducted to date on the purchasing impact of Philadelphia’s tax, published recently by JAMA, shows that sales of taxed beverages fell by 38 percent overall.

When kids are healthy, they do better in school…and when kids are able to go to school, it sets them up for a brighter future. Again, Philadelphia’s tax has delivered. More than 4,000 students have graduated from or are enrolled in high-quality pre-k programs thanks to additional seats funded by revenue from the tax. Tax revenues have also supported 17 new community schools throughout the city, delivering additional resources in neighborhoods with the highest needs. And when schools let out for the day, kids and families will benefit from the more than two dozen parks and recreation facilities that will be upgraded via the city’s landmark Rebuild programs—also funded by the city’s tax. This is not taking into account the additional health and economic benefits of sparing the children  and the nation from the added burden of chronic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes from the sugary drinks they consume.

Good, stable jobs are the backbone of our communities and our country. Once more, Philadelphia’s tax has delivered. Hundreds of new teachers have been hired due to the increase of students in pre-k programs, with most of the programs led by women and minorities. A recent study published in PlosOne found that employment figures in supermarkets and other industries affected by the tax have held steady since the tax’s inception.

For those of us who live and work in Philadelphia, we’re experiencing the positive health, education, and community impact of this tax every day. If other communities—and, indeed, our nation—eventually follow suit, children and families across the United States will reap the benefits.

Dr. Sanul Corrielus
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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