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Retailer perspectives on sugar-sweetened beverage taxes in the California Bay Area


The sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) industry has claimed that food and beverage retailers are opposed to SSB taxes. In 2018 and 2019, we formally evaluated retailers' perceptions of SSB taxes using semi-structured interviews (including open- and closed-ended questions) with 103 randomly selected retailers (50 corner and liquor stores; 28 chain convenience, drug, and mass-merchandise stores; 18 chain supermarkets and discount supermarkets; and 7 independent supermarkets) across 3 cities with SSB taxes (Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco); interviews occurred in 2018 and 2019 (approximately 3 years, 1 year and 6 months post tax-implementation, respectively). A majority of both small and large retailers reported the tax had only a minimal effect on their business (70%). About half of retailers believed that other cities should adopt SSB taxes (53%), and were supportive of a statewide SSB tax (53%), noting it would level the playing field and better support health in their communities. Retailers' responses did not differ based on neighborhood income, and only 2 responses differed significantly between large and small retailers. Only 2 of 103 retailers reported raising the price of a non-beverage product in response to the tax, specifically raising the price of snack foods of low nutritional quality and alcoholic beverages. A majority of retailers in 3 California cities with SSB taxes have no concerns regarding the tax, endorse the health goals of SSB taxes and support statewide expansion of SSB tax policies.

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