Objectives: To evaluate the impact of the excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption in Berkeley, California, which became the first US jurisdiction to implement such a tax ($0.01/oz) in March 2015.
Methods: We used a repeated cross-sectional design to examine changes in pre- to posttax beverage consumption in low-income neighborhoods in Berkeley versus in the comparison cities of Oakland and San Francisco, California. A beverage frequency questionnaire was interviewer administered to 990 participants before the tax and 1689 after the tax (approximately 8 months after the vote and 4 months after implementation) to examine relative changes in consumption.
Results: Consumption of SSBs decreased 21% in Berkeley and increased 4% in comparison cities (P = .046). Water consumption increased more in Berkeley (+63%) than in comparison cities (+19%; P < .01).
Conclusions: Berkeley's excise tax reduced SSB consumption in low-income neighborhoods. Evaluating SSB taxes in other cities will improve understanding of their public health benefit and their generalizability.