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Would You Tax Sugary Beverages? New Study Shows It Works

By We Love Cycling

Taxing beverages we enjoy drinking can be an unpopular decision. But what if it helps people cut down on sugar and be healthier? New research suggests that it might be effective. Let’s take a look to see if more countries should be taking this policy on.

We consume too much sugar

More than 50% of adults and 65% of children consume more added sugars than is recommended. Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, juice or energy drinks are the largest contributor of added sugars in Western diets. Overconsumption of added sugars significantly contributes to obesity and is associated with comorbidities like diabetes, which can increase cancer risks.

We consume too much sugar. © Profimedia

Taxing sugary beverages could provide financial incentives to consumers to choose healthier options and it could be an additional way to fund public-health programs. Two new studies published by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago evaluate the implementation of sugar-sweetened beverage taxes in Seattle where the tax was implemented in 2018.

“While we and others have published a number of studies on the short-term effects of SSB taxes where they have been implemented in the U.S., these taxes are still relatively new, and we need scientific data on longer-term impacts to understand if the policies have the potential to generate sustained public health benefits,” said study lead author Lisa Powell.

Sales of taxed beverages fell by 22%

The researchers compared data on sales of sugary beverages, sweets, and stand-alone sugar products in Seattle with data from Portland, which is a similar city without this tax. The first study called “Impact of a sugar-sweetened beverage tax two-year post-tax implementation in Seattle, Washington, United States” focused on the economic impacts of the tax.

The results showed that prices increased by 1,04 cents per 30 ml of taxed beverage. The volume of taxed beverages sold fell by 22% and there was no cross-border shopping.

They consumed 19% less sugar

The second study called “Evaluation of Changes in Grams of Sugar Sold After the Implementation of the Seattle Sweetened Beverage Tax” focused on the impact on sugar sold. The researchers found that the tax created a 23% reduction in grams of sugar sold from taxed beverages. They also observed a 4% increase in sugar sold from other sweets, which means there was a net 19% reduction in grams of sugar sold from taxed beverages in the two years after the tax was introduced.

“Our studies show that even after accounting for potential substitution behaviours, like cross-border shopping or selection of other items with added sugars, these taxes have a large, sustained impact on reducing volume and grams of sugar sold from sugary beverages. This suggests that taxes may permanently reduce the demand for sugary beverages and help to lower rates of health harms that are associated with added sugars,” said Lisa Powell.

Knowing how well it worked in Seattle, would you be for or against this kind of tax in your country?