Are Sodas, Other Sugary Drinks Falling Out of Favor With Americans?

Issue 28, Winter/Spring 2016

water vs soda

City taxes on sweetened beverages, falling sales might help curb obesity – a known cancer risk factor

This June, Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to pass a tax on sugary beverages such as sodas – one more sign that Americans’ love affair with the fattening drinks might be on the wane.

The trend could have real implications in the fight against cancer: The American Cancer Society says obesity is “clearly linked” with cancers of the breast (in postmenopausal women), colon, uterine lining (endometrium), esophagus, kidney and pancreas, and may be linked to other tumor types as well.

As reported by The New York Times, on June 16 Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney spearheaded a successful effort to slap a tax of 1.5 cents per ounce on the sale of sugary or artificially sweetened drinks sold in the city.

Similar efforts at a “soda tax” have failed with voters in New York City and other major U.S. urban centers, with the soft drinks industry casting such efforts as an intrusive “nanny tax.” However, Kenney portrayed his city’s soda tax as a healthy and effective means of raising much-needed funds to help boost popular city programs, such as universal prekindergarten classes.

“If we go five years ahead and look back, I think this is going to be a watershed moment,” said Jim Kreiger, executive director of Healthy Food America, an advocacy group that helps push for soda taxes across the country. “This is really going to provide momentum,” he told the Times.

Success in passing the tax in Philadelphia may be another nail in the coffin for sodas, which have seen their reign as one of Americans’ favored drinks teeter in recent years.

In early June, a report from drinks-industry tracker Beverage Marketing predicted that bottled water will soon replace soda as the most consumed beverage in the United States.

The report found that Americans’ consumption of bottled water jumped 120 percent between 2000 and 2015 – while carbonated beverage sales slipped by 16 percent over the same period.

Beverage Marketing now predicts that bottled water will become Americans’ drink of choice by 2017.

People are increasingly reaching for water to replace a wide variety of drinks, including sodas, juices and alcoholic beverages, Beverage Marketing CEO Michael Bellas told USA Today. “It was really one of the very first beverages to start to be consumed for health reasons,” he said.

A younger generation is also switching away from high-calorie sodas, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In June, the CDC released the latest data from the annual National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which surveys the habits of more than 15,000 high school students nationwide.

Among the findings: “There was a significant decrease in drinking soda one or more times a day from 27 percent [of high school students] in 2013 to 20 percent in 2015,” the CDC said.