Would Sugar Tax be Hard to Swallow?

In a follow-up to a blog we ran last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for a tax on sugary drinks and food. The WHO believes the tax could drive down consumption and help in the fight against obesity.

From the New York Times:

A tax on sugary beverages raising their price 20 percent would result in a proportionate reduction in their consumption, the agency said. That would advance the fight against obesity, which has more than doubled since 1980. About half a billion adults were obese in 2014, roughly 11 percent of men and 15 percent of women.

“If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives,” Dr. Douglas Bettcher, director of the W.H.O.’s Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, said in a statement. “They can also cut health care costs.”

The WHO released new data to try to explain why the organization believes a tax would help drive better health. According to the Los Angeles Times, “The most effective taxes are likely to be excise taxes, which are levied on a specific amount of a certain product or ingredient. This would eliminate the incentive for manufacturers to simply switch to less expensive sweeteners in order to shield consumers from higher prices, according to the report.”

As Reuters News Agency pointed out, some organizations are pretty sour on the idea of a sugar tax.

The U.S.-based soft drinks industry’s lobbying arm – whose members include Coca-Cola Co, Pepsico Inc and Red Bull – strongly disagreed with what it called “discriminatory taxation”.

“It is an unproven idea that has not been shown to improve public health based on global experiences to date,” the Washington-based International Council of Beverages Associations said in a statement. A comprehensive approach based on the whole diet was needed for a lasting solution to obesity, it said.

Meanwhile, PBS News Hour is reporting that some areas are already considering a sugar tax. “Voters in three California cities and one in Colorado will decide next month whether to slap a special tax on sugary drinks like soda and sports thirst-quenchers after costly, high-stakes campaigns that are pitting healthy-lifestyle advocates against the beverage and grocery industries.”

There is no question that obesity and diabetes are two of our state’s and our nation’s biggest health problems. But we’d love to hear whether you believe a tax on sugary foods and drinks is part of the answer. Generating thoughtful conversations around the health issues making news is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

 

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