Soft-drink tax worth its weight in lost kilos

Soft-drink tax worth its weight in lost kilos
Credit: Xi Zhang

A tax on sweetened soft drinks could be an effective weapon in the war against obesity, generating weight losses of up to 3.64 kilograms as individuals reduce their consumption.

Researchers from Monash University, Imperial College London and University of York and Lancaster University, England have estimated the extent to which drinking habits would change if beverages such as carbonated non-diet soft drinks; cordials and fruit drinks were taxed.

Lead author Dr Anurag Sharma, of the Centre for Health Economics at Monash University, said such a could have important policy and welfare implications.

"Many nutrition experts think that consumption of sweetened beverages may be the single largest driver of the obesity epidemic," Dr Sharma said.

"Taxes on unhealthy foods are attractive because they not only generate tax revenue that can be used for , they also promise health benefits for individuals."

Soft-drink taxes already apply in some countries, and many US states tax carbonated drinks at an average rate of 3.5 per cent.

A more substantial tax would be needed to reduce consumption rates, Dr Sharma said. The researchers compared the effects of a 20 per cent sales tax and a 20 cents per litre volumetric tax, assessing the impact on all income groups.

Although both taxes would be regressive, representing a greater proportion of lower incomes than higher ones, the proposed rates would keep this effect mild, Dr Sharma said.

A 20 per cent sales tax would raise annual costs per person by about $15 to $17. But in weight-loss terms, average consumption would drop by more than 10,000 kilojoules a quarter, with about one third of a kilo coming off on the scales. Those who had been heavier consumers would lose more – between 1 and 2 kilos.

"In absolute terms, the difference in tax over a year can be considered negligible, but the weight change could be significant, making these changes very cost-effective," Dr Sharma said.

The effect would be even more striking if a 20 cents per litre volumetric tax were applied. While still imposing a relatively low tax burden, it could lead to weight reductions of up to 3.64 kilograms in middle-income heavy consumers of sweetened beverages.

This was chiefly because although a would have a bigger effect on the price of single bottles, a volumetric tax meant those buying large quantities or discounted multipacks would face much steeper price increases.

The findings are published in Health Economics. The research was funded by the Australian Research Council and data was provided by VicHealth.

More information: Sharma, A., Hauck, K., Hollingsworth, B. and Siciliani, L. (2014), "THE EFFECTS OF TAXING SUGAR-SWEETENED BEVERAGES ACROSS DIFFERENT INCOME GROUPS." Health Econ.. doi: 10.1002/hec.3070

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Research finds soda tax does little to decrease obesity

Apr 01, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Extra sales taxes on soda may not do anything to improve people's health, according to new research from health economist Jason Fletcher of the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the ...

Soda taxes: Weight loss benefit linked to household income

Dec 13, 2010

Imposing higher taxes on sodas and other sweetened drinks may generate a lot of money – but would lead to only minimal weight loss among most people and would have no effect on weight among consumers in the highest and ...

Recommended for you

Preterm children's brains can catch up years later

2 hours ago

There's some good news for parents of preterm babies – latest research from the University of Adelaide shows that by the time they become teenagers, the brains of many preterm children can perform almost as well as those ...

Mortality rates increase due to extreme heat and cold

2 hours ago

Epidemiological studies have repeatedly shown that death rates rise in association with extremely hot weather. The heat wave in Western Europe in the summer of 2003, for example, resulted in about 22,000 extra deaths. A team ...

It takes more than practice to excel, psychologist reports

3 hours ago

Case Western Reserve University's new assistant professor of psychology Brooke N. Macnamara, PhD, and colleagues have overturned a 20-year-old theory that people who excel in their fields are those who practiced the most.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Shootist
not rated yet Jun 17, 2014
Soft-drink tax worth its weight in lost kilos

Dog squeeze.

Regardless of motive: People who would force their belief systems on others through coercion, financial or physical, should not be be allowed to wander freely about.
aya
not rated yet Jun 17, 2014
It makes sense soft drinks may lead to get more tax revenue. If soft drinks are addictive, collecting tax on them may be the source of a lot of money. Alternatively, this tax may be helpful for weigh loss as you pointed out. Thank you for sharing this information.

Tik.,
specialfatloss.com