Taxing Soda to Slow the Obesity Epidemic
Adding a penny per ounce tax to sugar-sweetened beverages could slow the growth of obesity in the U.S.—and could raise billions of dollars for obesity prevention and other health programs, according to a new analysis by seven public health experts in The New England Journal of Medicine.(1)
Overweight-and obesity-related medical costs in the U.S. total an estimated $147 billion a year—nearly 10 percent of all health care spending—and sugary drinks are a major contributor to the nation’s obesity epidemic. (2-4)
Read about the strong evidence linking sugary drink consumption to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
A penny-per-ounce excise tax would likely spur consumers to cut their sugary drink calorie consumption, potentially by 8 to 10 percent—enough to promote weight loss and lower the risk of sugary drink-related chronic diseases—and could raise nearly $15 billion per year, the authors write. Levying an excise tax directly on beverage manufacturers—rather than a sales tax on consumers—would likely be the most efficient way to collect the tax and lead to the greatest effect on consumption because consumers would see this as a higher price. A tax on the sugar content of beverages would also give manufacturers an incentive to cut down the sugar content of drinks.
How much money could a tax on sugary drinks raise in your state? Try the soda tax revenue calculator at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity website.
Harvard researchers have already called on the beverage industry to produce a new class of lower-sugar beverages that contain no more than 1 gram of sugar per ounce and are free of artificial sweeteners.
Read about steps beverage manufacturers, government, and consumers can take to reduce their consumption of sugary drinks.
See a chart showing how sugary drinks contribute to the risk type 2 diabetes.
Find out how much sugar is in soft drinks, iced tea, sports drink, juices, and other beverages.
1. Brownell KD, Farley T,Willett WC, Popkin BM, Chaloupka FJ, Thompson JW, Ludwig DS. The public healthand economic benefits of taxing sugar-sweetened beverages. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2009. Epub ahead of print.
2. Finkelstein EA, Trogdon JG, Cohen JW, Dietz W. Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: payer- and service-specific estimates. Health Affairs (Millwood). 2009; July 29 (Epub ahead of print).
3. Malik VS, Schulze MB, Hu FB. Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: asystematic review. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006; 84:274-288.
4. Vartanian LR, Schwartz MB, Brownell KD. Effects of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Public Health. 2007; 97:667-675.
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