Taxing Sugary Drinks a Possible Solution to Reduce Obesity?

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In a recent study published in the BMJ, researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Reading in the UK, found that introducing a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened drinks could aid in the battle against obesity. This high tax on sugar-sweetened drinks was estimated to reduce the number of obese adults by 1.3% or 180,000 cases.  It also reduced the number of overweight adults by 0.9% or 285,000 people. The taxation of sugar- sweetened drinks could prove to be a promising measure to reduce the number of obese adults.

Sugary Drink

Sugar Drinks Increase the Risk of Obesity, Diabetes, and Heart Disease

It is no secret that excess sugar consumption leads to a multitude of health problems for people to include obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  Evidence has come out showing sugary drinks as a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. Beverage companies spend billions of dollars marketing to entice people to buy their products. They continue to find ways to make their drinks more appealing to the general public. 

Over the years, drink portion sizes has dramatically increased.  Before the 1950s, the standard soft drink bottles were 6.5 ounces. In the 1950s, soft drink makers began to introduce larger sized 12-ounce cans. 

Dad's Old Fashioned Red Cream Soda

By the early 1990s, 20-ounce plastic bottles became the new norm.  Today, plastic bottles are available in even larger sizes such as the 1.25-liter (42-ounce) bottle.  No wonder the consumption of sodas and sugar- sweetened drinks has increased so steadily. Access to larger quantities is readily available and relatively cheap to purchase.  It becomes a “better deal” to buy the larger sized drink beverage.

For each additional 12-ounce soda children consume each day, the odds of becoming obese increase by 60%.  People who consume 1 to 2 cans of sugary drinks a day or more have a 26% chance of developing type 2 diabetes.   Another study showed that men who averaged one can of sugary beverage per day, increased their risk of having or dying from a heart attack by 20%. The overwhelming evidence of negative health effects of sugar-sweetened drinks has led to a call to action to limit consumption.  Taking a similar approach used towards alcohol and tobacco, officials seek to impose a 20% tax on sugary drinks.

Sugary drink comparison #3

Research

Researchers analyzed data from surveys of grocery purchases, drink consumption, body mass index (BMI), and drink population. According to joint-first study author Adam Briggs of the University of Oxford, the idea of a high tax on sugar-sweetened drinks is seen by many governments and health organizations as a way to reduce their consumption. Moreover, the effect of a sugary drink tax in the UK had not previously been studied. Researchers believed that the tax would deter the public from choosing sugary beverages and prompt them to look for healthier drink alternatives.  Examples of healthier substitutes were milk, tea, water, and diet drinks.

From their findings, the research team was able to estimate that the 20% sales tax on sugar-laden drinks may help combat obesity, especially those aged between 16 and 29.  This age group is the highest consumer of sugar-sweetened drinks.

Other advantages to the 20% tax is the ability to raise large amounts of money that could be used to fund government programs that help subsidize access to healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables.  Researchers estimate that the tax could raise as much as $442 million a year.

Other Countries Should Adopt the 20% Sugar Sweetened Drink Tax

Jason Block, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School in the US, wrote an editorial that deemed the 20% sugar-sweetened drink tax effective in reducing obesity, and he encourages more countries to adopt the same strategy and measure the results.  He implores policy makers to use the evidence found from these studies to act and take measures to make actual policy changes.  This type of study is helpful but merely provides projections as opposed to real world evidence.

Reference:

British Journal of Medicine (BMJ)

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