November 1, 2013
UK Tax Hike On Soda Could Reduce Thousands Of Waistlines: Study
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
With a twenty percent tax issued for cans of soda, the number of overweight Britons could decrease by as many as 285,000. The number of obese people living in the UK could also decline by 180,000, say researchers from Oxford and Reading Universities.
The twenty percent tax, or about 12 pence per can, is being suggested in a study published online at bmj.com. The tax would have the greatest effect on younger Britons ages 16 - 29 years old but would be felt across all pay grades. All monies gained by the tax could be used to supplement the National Health Service (NHS) as it faces budget cuts.
Soda has been hailed before as a major contributor to obesity and hefty weight gains. As such health professionals and governments have made attempts to restrict the consumption of sugar water, including New York City’s attempted ban on soda sold in larger containers.
“Good evidence shows that regular consumption of sugar sweetened drinks is associated with ill health — principally, adverse weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and dental caries,” reads the report.
Working for the British Heart Foundation (BHF), the researchers gathered data from surveys about how often people purchased soda, how much they paid for it, and how much they weighed.
After crunching the numbers, the researchers deduced that a tax of about 12 pence, or 19 cents American, could raise some $442 million (US) every year. Under the tax, the British would be paying roughly an extra eight pence every week towards the NHS fund. It’s also suggested that fewer obese and overweight citizens could lighten the burden placed on national doctors and nurses. If soda costs more, assume the researchers, people will choose coffee or tea as their caffeinated beverage of choice. In doing so, they’ll also be reducing their caloric intake by about 28 calories per week.
“Such a tax is not going to solve obesity by itself, but we have shown it could be an effective public health measure and should be considered alongside other measures to tackle obesity in the UK,” said Dr. Adam Briggs, a BHF researcher with Oxford University.
The nation’s soda producers aren’t on board with the proposed tax, of course, and say the bubbly beverage is too often blamed for causing obesity.
"There's ample evidence to suggest that taxing soft drinks won't curb obesity, not least because its causes are far more complex than this simplistic approach implies,” argued Gavin Partington, the director general of the British Soft Drinks Association in an interview with the BBC.
"Trying to blame one set of products is misguided, particularly when they comprise a mere 2 percent of calories in the average diet," he said.
One dietician in the NHS says she believes the tax would reduce the amount of soda consumed by Britons every year, but it likely won’t target the most obese demographic in the region, 45- to 75-year-olds.
"I think the tax 'stick' would beneficially reduce consumption of sweetened drinks, but it's a whole staircase of steps too far to presume such a tax would influence obesity in the UK,” said Catherine Collins in an interview with The Guardian's Sarah Boseley.
Some professors and other experts are also calling the proposed tax “naive,” saying they don’t believe a simple tax will have such dramatic effects on UK’s stomachs.
"The cost of sugar-sweetened beverages is currently so low that any price increase would be so marginal that it would be unlikely to affect intake. You can buy three litres of orange squash (28% sugar) for £1 in discount stores," explained Tom Sanders, a professor of nutrition at King’s College in London.