Strengthening West Virginia’s Soda Tax Would Bring Much-Needed Revenue, Improve Health Outcomes for Residents

For Immediate Release
Contact: Caitlin Cook, 304.543.4879

(Charleston, WV) – West Virginia can reduce obesity while making much-needed public investments by strengthening its soda tax. Implementing a tax of just one penny-per-ounce could raise almost $100 million and prevent more than 17,000 cases of obesity. This is according to a West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy report, released today, that details both the health and revenue benefits of sugary-sweetened beverage taxes as well as explores how entities have implemented the policy and how they have reinvested funds back into their communities.

West Virginia has been plagued with budget shortfalls, leading to underfunded programs like the Public Employee Insurance Agency, and an unhealthy workforce. In 2016, nearly 71 percent of West Virginia adults were either overweight or obese, and in that same year, West Virginia had the highest adult obesity rate in the nation at 37.7 percent up from 23.9 percent in 2000 and 35.6 percent in 2015.

"While a sugar-sweetened beverage tax disproportionately affects lower-income populations, these same populations are disproportionately affected by overweight, obesity, and resulting health conditions," report author and WVCBP Public Policy Fellow Tara Holmes said. "In order to offset the regressive nature of the tax, revenues could be earmarked and put back into these same communities. Revenues can also be used to encourage and support physical activity and be applied to childhood obesity prevention programs, school gardens, and parks and recreation. If the revenue generated from an SSB tax is put toward programs that primarily benefit lower-income populations, the results will ultimately be progressive."

Key Findings

  • Numerous studies show adverse health effects of overconsumption of sugary-sweetened beverages – including a higher risk of dying from heart disease.
  • The increase in consumption since the 1970s is fueling the nation’s health woes.
  • The West Virginia legislature enacted the current Soft Drink Tax in 1951 to fund the West Virginia University School of Medicine, Nursing, and Dentistry.
  • Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages can curb consumption while bringing in much-needed revenue to fund health programs and other programs.
  • West Virginia already has a tax structure for implementing a sugar-sweetened beverage tax and badly needs revenue to invest in human capital and curtail budget woes.
  • Implementing a penny-per-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage tax could bring in upwards of $98 million in much-needed revenue – with a two-cent-per-ounce tax, estimates reach $142 million.

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© 2018 West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy