Tax Soda To Fight Obesity, WHO Urges Nations Around The Globe
The World Health Organization has already urged us to cut back on sugar, limiting added sugars to no more than 10 percent of our daily calories.
So, how might policymakers get people to follow this advice? In a new report, the WHO is urging governments around the world to tax soda and other sugary drinks.
In its report, the World Health Organization points to systematic reviews of policies aimed at improving diet and preventing lifestyle diseases, such as obesity and diabetes. "The evidence was strongest and most consistent for the effectiveness of sugar-sweetened beverage taxes in the range of 20-50% in reducing consumption," the WHO's meta-review concludes.
Dr. Douglas Bettcher, director of the WHO's Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, says that "consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes."
"If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives. They can also cut healthcare costs and increase revenues to invest in health services," Bettcher was quoted as saying in a WHO release on the report.
The International Council of Beverages Associations, which represents soda companies and other beverage-makers around the globe, says it's disappointed with the new WHO report. "We strongly disagree with the committee's recommendation to tax beverages, as it is an unproven idea that has not been shown to improve public health based on global experiences to date," an ICBA release concludes.
As we've reported, Philadelphia passed a tax on sweetened beverages earlier this year. And researchers documented a decline in sales of sugary drinks in Mexico after a tax was passed in 2014.
Similar measures are on the ballot this year in San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., as well as in Boulder, Colo.
Last year, as we reported, researchers at George Washington University and the Harvard School of Public Health published a 10-year estimate of the health impacts of a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks in Philadelphia.
"We'd expect over 12,000 cases of obesity prevented by the end of the 10-year period, as well as $65 million in health care cost savings over the 10-year period," Michael Long, a researcher at GW, told us earlier this year. "The evidence is clear," Long told us. "When prices go up, people buy less of things."
In the months leading up to the vote in Philadelphia, the American Beverage Association spent more than $4.2 million in media buys to turn public opinion against the tax. The ABA is currently supporting a campaign to defeat the initiatives in California.
The findings of a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine show that the largest players in the soda industry, the Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo, spent millions of dollars between 2011 and 2015 lobbying against 29 different public health bills that aimed to either improve nutrition or reduce soda consumption.
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