Tax on fizzy drinks could save the lives of about 67 Kiwis each year

February 14, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—A tax on fizzy drinks could save lives and generate millions in revenue for health programmes in New Zealand.

This is according to new research published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today and conducted as part of a larger study examining the effects of a range of health-related food taxes and subsidies on population health.

The study is led by the National Institute for Health Innovation at the University of Auckland, in collaboration with the University of Otago, and funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

Researchers estimate a 20 percent tax on fizzy drinks would reduce energy consumption by 0.2percent or 20kJ a day and help avert or postpone about 67 deaths from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and diet-related cancers a year.

The health effect of such a tax would likely be greater amongst Maori and Pacific consumers, as they are more responsive to changes in food prices, and amongst children and young people due to their higher consumption of such drinks.

"High sugar intakes are linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and – a strong case can therefore be made for efforts to reduce consumption," says lead researcher Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu of the National Institute for Health Innovation.

"Of particular concern are sugar-sweetened soft drinks because they are nutrient poor, and energy from beverages appears less satiating than that obtained from solid foods, resulting in increased consumption."

Almost one fifth of the total of New Zealand adults (17percent) comes from non-alcoholic beverages and younger people in particular derive a substantial proportion of their sugar intake from these drinks.

"Between 27 and 29percent of total sugar consumed by 15 to 18 year-olds comes from these beverages versus seven to eight percent in those aged over 71. Younger children, aged five to 14, obtain nearly a quarter (24percent) of their daily sugar intake from beverages," says Professor Ni Mhurchu.

"Randomised controlled trial data have shown convincingly that reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages decreases weight gain in children."

In addition to the health benefits, a 20percent tax on fizzy drinks could generate up to $40 million in new tax revenue each year, which could be invested in programmes to improve , according to the researchers' calculations.

"The average New Zealand household spends $166, or 1.8 per cent of their food expenditure, on fizzy drinks a year. With 1.55 million households in the country according to the 2013 Census, we estimate the total national expenditure on these beverages is around $257 million each year," says Professor Tony Blakely, co-author and researcher at the University of Otago, Wellington.

"Therefore a 20percent tax on these drinks could generate up to $40 million revenue a year, even allowing for reductions in consumption due to tax, if applied to all fizzy drinks, or about $30 million if applied only to sugar-sweetened varieties."

A number of countries have implemented taxes on soft drinks or sugar-sweetened beverages, and research published recently in the British Medical Journal reported that a 20percent sales tax on sugar-sweetened drinks could reduce the prevalence of obesity in the UK by 1.3percent and reduce the prevalence of overweight by a further 0.9percent. A health impact assessment of a proposed 10percent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in Ireland found it could reduce the prevalence of obesity by 1.3% and prevalence of overweight by a further 0.7%.

"Our review of the international evidence supports these findings," says Professor Blakely.

"Despite differences in tax rates and effect sizes, the pooled evidence suggests taxes on fizzy drinks would result in positive dietary change, and potentially improved health."

Given its cost-effectiveness, a percent tax on carbonated drinks could be a simple, effective component of a multifaceted strategy to tackle New Zealand's high burden of diet-related disease, conclude both Professor Ni Mhurchu and Blakely. It warrants serious consideration by decision-makers, and public discussion and debate.


The researchers used a macro-simulation model based on household food expenditure data and demand elasticity to estimate the effects of a 20 percent . Cost-elasticity data for carbonated and other non-alcoholic in New Zealand was used, along with expenditure data from the last two national Household Economic Surveys. Population demographics were obtained from the 2006 New Zealand Census, while population disease-specific mortality rates by age, sex, income and ethnic group were obtained from national mortality data for 2009.

Explore further: A 20 percent sugary drink tax would cut number of UK obese adults by 180,000

Related Stories

A 20 percent sugary drink tax would cut number of UK obese adults by 180,000

October 31, 2013
A 20% tax on sugar sweetened drinks would reduce the number of UK adults who are obese by 180,000 (1.3%) and who are overweight by 285,000 (0.9%), suggests a study published in BMJ today.

American Heart Association comments on sugar-sweetened beverage taxes to address obesity

November 6, 2013
The American Heart Association issued the following comments on a recent article published by the British Medical Journal focusing on a study of the impact of sugar sweetened drink taxes:

Fruit juice – just another sugary drink?

February 11, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Drinking fruit juice is potentially just as bad for you as drinking sugar-sweetened drinks because of its high sugar content, two medical researchers from the University of Glasgow have warned.

Sugar-sweetened beverage tax could reduce obesity and type 2 diabetes in India

January 7, 2014
A sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax could help mitigate the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes rates in India among both urban and rural populations, according to a study published this week in PLOS Medicine. Sanjay Basu ...

Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages could yield sweet results

May 13, 2011
( -- Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages a penny-per-ounce could reduce consumption and generate significant revenue, finds a study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University and the Bridging ...

Minorities' health would benefit most from beverage sugar tax, researchers report

December 16, 2013
Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages is likely to decrease consumption, resulting in lower rates of diabetes and heart disease, and these health benefits are expected to be greatest for the low-income, Hispanic and African-American ...

Recommended for you

State-level disclosure laws affect patients' eagerness to have their DNA tested

December 12, 2017
Different types of privacy laws in U.S. states produce markedly different effects on the willingness of patients to have genetic testing done, according to a new study co-authored by an MIT professor.

Babies born during famine have lower cognition in midlife

December 12, 2017
Hunger and malnutrition in infancy may lead to poor cognitive performance in midlife, according to a new study.

'Man flu' may be real

December 11, 2017
The much-debated phenomenon of "man flu" may have some basis in fact, suggests an article published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Full moon linked to increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes

December 11, 2017
The full moon is associated with an increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, finds a study in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Social media trends can predict tipping points in vaccine scares

December 11, 2017
Analyzing trends on Twitter and Google can help predict vaccine scares that can lead to disease outbreaks, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.

Study suggests being proud may protect against falls in older people

December 11, 2017
Contrary to the old saying "pride comes before a fall", the opposite appears to be true, according to a study published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.