Centering Equity in Sugary Drink Tax Policy:

Tax Design and Policy Research Recommendations

Taxing sugary drinks has emerged as an important healthy food and chronic disease prevention policy. Sugary drink taxes generate substantial revenues to address community needs and reduce sales of sugary drinks. Yet they must do more. A well-designed tax promotes health and social equity by benefiting the people most harmed by the beverage industry’s sugary drink products and predatory marketing practices. It invests revenues in these impacted communities and gives them a strong role in deciding how to use tax revenues. This webpage contains recommendations for designing sugary drink taxes so they promote equity and for research on the equity impacts of these taxes from the Sugary Drink Tax Equity Workgroup. Recommendations are available as brief summaries and full reports.


Equitable Sugary Drink Tax Policy Recommendations

Make Equity a Priority

  • Make equity a priority goal in the legislative intent language.
  • Include provisions that make the revenue allocation process equitable.
  • Require evaluation of tax impacts on equity.
  • Pass through a significant portion of revenues collected by state-level taxes to local community-led efforts and collaborations to improve equity.
  • Structure sugary drink taxes as excise taxes paid by the producers or distributors of sugary drinks.

Invest Tax Revenues in Communities

  • Invest in communities most impacted by health conditions caused by consuming sugary drinks.
  • Address the social and economic determinants of health that contribute to inequities in preventable chronic diseases.
  • Specify that revenue investments should grow long-term community capacity to advocate for policy and systems change.
  • Specify a strong community role in revenue allocation decisions.
  • Support community-based organizations in impacted areas to deliver programming and activities that support health and advance equity.

Ensure Accountability

  • Require processes to monitor and publicly report on tax revenue collections, allocations, and spending.
  • Establish a dedicated sugary drink tax revenue fund within the budget that clearly states the permitted uses of these funds.


Healthy Food America and The Praxis Project, convened the Sugary Drink Tax Equity Workgroup in 2020 to develop these recommendations. The Workgroup was comprised of 24 community, professional, and academic experts working at the forefront of tax policy design, adoption, implementation, and evaluation in the US. Workgroup members are champions for healthy communities and equity. To guide its process, the Workgroup collaboratively developed a shared values statement:

The Sugary Drink Tax Equity Workgroup values sugary drink tax policies that provide sustainable sources of support for building health equity and social justice, community capacity and agency, and that hold food and beverage corporations accountable for the harms they bring to communities.

The Workgroup also developed messaging to counter industry arguments against sugary drink taxes. If you are interested in this messaging please contact Jim Krieger - [email protected] or Xavier Morales – [email protected]

The policy design recommendations are endorsed by the following organizations: Berkeley Media Studies Group, Boulder County Public Health, Center for Science in the Public Interest, ChangeLab Solutions, Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition (WA State), Healthy Food America, Just Strategies, Public Health Law Center, Sugar Freedom Project - a project of InAdvance, The Praxis Project, and UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.
  • Sabrina Adler, ChangeLab Solutions
  • Rosalie Aguilar, Salud America
  • Rachel Arndt, Boulder County Public Health
  • Doug Blanke, Public Health Law Center
  • Francis Calpotura, Sugar Freedom Project, a project of InAdvance
  • Stacy Cantu, Salud America
  • Victor Colman, Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition (WA State)
  • Molly Devinney, Sugar Freedom Project, a project of InAdvance
  • Aaron Doeppers, Voices for Healthy Kids
  • Lori Dorfman, Berkeley Media Studies Group
  • Nancy Fink, Center for Science in the Public Interest
  • Claudia Goytia, Voices for Healthy Kids
  • Joi Jackson-Morgan, 3rd Street Youth Center
  • Joelle Johnson, Center for Science in the Public Interest
  • Jim Krieger, Healthy Food America/ University of WA
  • Kirsten Leng, Healthy Food America
  • Kimberly Libman, ChangeLab Solutions
  • Sally Mancini, UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity
  • Darya Minovi, Center for Science in the Public Interest
  • Xavier Morales, The Praxis Project
  • NaDa R. Shoemaker, Voices for Healthy Kids
  • Leika Suzumura, University of WA, MPH student
  • Roberto Vargas, San Francisco Sugary Drinks Distributor Tax Advisory Committee
  • Dwayne Wharton, Just Strategies


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