Quick Take: Drexel’s Gambescia Testifies in Favor of Soda Tax

“A founding principle of public health measures is such policies aim to benefit all, and lowering sugar intake fits this principle at many levels. This should trump the social economy argument against the tax and serve the people aspiring to live in a healthier state.” — Stephen Gambescia, PhD, professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions testifying in favor of the proposed “soda tax” during the Philadelphia City Council’s budget hearings.


As part of his first proposed city budget, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has put forth a three-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks, such as soda and sports drinks.

Dubbed the “soda tax,” the intent behind it is one of public health: to cut down on the population’s sugar intake and the health issues that come with it. And for that reason, Drexel’s Gambescia, who testified as a volunteer advocate for the American Heart Association, stands firmly behind the proposed tax.

Testifying before the city council Tuesday evening, Gambescia explained that “drinking just one sugary drink a day increases a woman’s risk for Type 2 diabetes by 80 percent and increases a man’s risk of heart disease by 20 percent.”

“There is clear and consistent health status evidence of more people in our country — and in this city — becoming overweight, especially among our youth,” Gambescia testified. “Increased consumption of sugary drinks, while not the only factor, is certainly a major contributing factor to this unhealthy status.”

Cutting down on overall sugar intake will have a positive effect on the city’s public health, Gambescia believes. Additionally, he supports the idea of using the tax to fund prekindergarten education, community schools which will be combined with health/social services.

Gambescia recognizes that there are arguments against the soda tax, such as the idea that it would affect smaller businesses and the truck drivers and bottlers working at distributors. Those are social economy arguments, he said.

But the largest social economy argument, Gambescia believes, is the public’s desire to be healthy, even if this involves a small financial cost to them.

“Clearly, our youth and adults in Philadelphia do not want to be overweight or obese, and they don’t want to be at risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and a sundry of other health problems that result from high levels of sugar intake,” he said. “If an increased tax decreases the consumption of sugary drinks, I think we all can agree this would be a good thing, in the end.”

Media interested in speaking to Gambescia should contact Frank Otto at 215.571.4244 or fmo26@drexel.edu.

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