Chile's 2014 sugar-sweetened beverage tax and changes in prices and purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages: An observational study in an urban environment.PLoS Med. 2018 07; 15(7):e1002597.PM
On October 1, 2014, the Chilean government modified its previous sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax, increasing the tax rate from 13% to 18% on industrialized beverages with high levels of sugar (H-SSBs) (greater than 6.25 grams [g] sugar/100 milliliters [mL]) and decreasing the tax rate from 13% to 10% on industrialized beverages with low or no sugar (L-SSBs) (less than 6.25 g sugar/100 mL). This study examines changes in beverage prices and household beverage purchases following the implementation of the tax reform.
METHODS AND FINDINGS
We used longitudinal data collected between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2015, from 2,000 households. We defined the pretax period as January 1, 2013, to September 30, 2014, and the posttax period as October 1, 2014, to December 31, 2015. We conducted a pre-post analysis for changes in prices and purchases, with the latter examined by volume and calories. We compared posttax changes in prices and purchases to a counterfactual, defined as what would have been expected in the posttax period based on pretax trends. All results are stated as comparisons to this counterfactual. We linked beverages at the bar code level to nutrition facts panel data collected by a team of Chilean nutritionists who categorized them by taxation level and beverage subcategory, which included carbonated and noncarbonated H-SSBs and concentrated, ready-to-drink L-SSBs and untaxed beverages. We reconstituted concentrated beverages and analyzed all beverages using as-consumed volumes and calories. Posttax monthly prices of H-SSBs increased, but these changes were small. Prices of carbonated H-SSBs increased by 2.0% (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.0%-3.0%), while those of noncarbonated H-SSBs increased by 3.9% (95% CI 1.6%-6.2%). Prices of L-SSB concentrates decreased after the tax by 6.7% (95% CI -8.2%--4.6%), and prices of ready-to-drink L-SSBs increased by 1.5% (95% CI 0.3%-2.7%). Households decreased monthly per capita purchases of H-SSBs by 3.4% by volume (95% CI -5.9%--0.9%) and 4.0% by calories (95% CI -6.3%--1.9%), and this change was greater among high socioeconomic status (SES) households. The volume of household purchases of L-SSBs increased 10.7% (95% CI 7.5%-13.9%), while that of untaxed beverage purchases decreased by 3.1% (95% CI -5.1%--1.1%). The main limitation of this study was that there was no control group, so we were unable to assess the causal impact of the tax.
The modifications of Chile's SSB tax were small, and observed changes in prices and purchases of beverages after the tax were also small. Our results are consistent with previous evidence indicating that small increases in SSB taxes are unlikely to promote large enough changes in SSB purchases to reduce obesity and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).