Sugar sweetened drinks are an obvious target for policy initiatives for population-wide obesity prevention mostly because they have no redeeming nutritional value and they provide calories without impacting on satiety. A meta-analysis published in BMC Public Health in 2013 (1) supported the use of taxes in that it suggested that an increase in price for sugary drinks results in decreased consumption. With soft drink sales already declining in the USA (2, 3) public health advocates will be looking for reduced obesity levels particularly in children. Data emerging from New York suggests that reducing soft drink consumption, along with other dietary changes, may be having an impact. (4)
Will we see soft drink taxes in Australia anytime soon? A paper by Sharma et al from Monash University proposed a 20cents/litre tax, (5) the Cancer Council, Diabetes Australia and Heart Foundation Australia called for such taxes nearly two years ago and(6) a recent Australian citizens’ jury strongly supported the idea. (7) It would be a revenue raiser for a Government struggling to balance the books particularly in the light of falling revenue from tobacco taxes. (8) It will be interesting to see how the citizens in the HealthyLaws citizen jury (to be held April 2015) rate soft drink taxes against other potential policy options.
1. Cabrera Escobar MA, Veerman JL, Tollman SM, et al. Evidence that a tax on sugar sweetened beverages reduces the obesity rate: a meta-analysis. BMC Public Health. 2013; 13: 1072.
2. Suddarth, C, Stanford, D. Coke confronts its big fat problem. Bloomberg Business Week, July 31, 2014. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-07-31/coca-cola-sales-decline-health-concerns-spur-relaunch
3. Esterl, M. Is this the end of the soft-drink era. The Wall Street Journal. Jan 18 2013. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323783704578245973076636056
4. Tavernise, S Obesity rate for young children plummets 43% in a decade. The New York Times. Feb 25 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/26/health/obesity-rate-for-young-children-plummets-43-in-a-decade.html?_r=0
5. Sharma A, Hauck K, Hollingsworth B, et al. The effects of taxing sugar-sweetened beverages across different income groups. Health Economics. 2014; 23: 1159-84.
6. MacDonald, A, Call for tax on sugary soft drinks. ABC News 17 Jan 2013. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-01-17/call-for-tax-on-sugary-soft-drinks/4468924
7. Cabrera Escobar MA, Veerman JL, Tollman SM, et al. Evidence that a tax on sugar sweetened beverages reduces the obesity rate: a meta-analysis. BMC Public Health. 2013; 13: 1072.
8. Herald Sun. Tobacco tax falls by 341 million. September 24 2012, http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/tobacco-tax-revenue-falls-by-341m/story-fndo48ca-1226480197863