251748 Taking Sugary Drinks: The Philadelphia Story

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 9:20 AM

Donald Schwarz, MD, MBA, MPH , Department of Public Health, City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Background: Sugary drinks are cheap, readily available and heavily marketed, and contribute significantly to weight-related morbidity. To protect the public's health, local governments should engage in creative (and disruptive) strategies to decrease consumption.

Strategies Implemented: Philadelphia introduced a two-cent per ounce gross receipts tax on retailers of sugary drinks (defined as all beverages containing sugar syrup except milk products and flavored made-to-order coffee drinks) in 2010, generating vigorous public discourse and substantial industry push-back. Ultimately, the legislation fell one councilperson short of majority and did not become law. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health launched a multi-media social marketing campaign in January 2011 (www.foodfitphilly.org), asking caregivers, “Do you know what your kids are drinking?.” And the City of Philadelphia is implementing healthy beverage standards for its 260 beverage vending machines, including: a healthier product mix, smaller portions, calorie labeling, product placement changes, and advertising restrictions.

Outcomes: Residents and leaders of the city witnessed the efforts of industry to fight tax proposals, exposing the underlying belief that taxation would be effective in decreasing consumption. Industry spent millions of dollars and their most effective arguments focused on the false economic perils of higher grocery prices for poor residents and job loss. Local press covered this story closely, and early data suggest that residents are being exposed to the media campaign and that messages are resonating with them. While sales data are not yet available, the vending changes have garnered substantial positive feedback and have inspired multiple large employers to adopt similar policies.

Learning Areas:
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Describe the experience of the City of Philadelphia in creating a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

Keywords: Food and Nutrition, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Commissioner of Health and have been during the SSB campaign in Philadelphia
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.