Saturday, 22 April 2017

Health benefits of implementing taxes on sugar sweetened beverages

Health benefits of implementing taxes on sugar sweetened beverages A new study published in the journal PLoS Medicine on Tuesday this week has shown that implementing sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) tax works as intended. In November 2014, Berkeley in California passed the first large (one cent per fluid ounce of sugary drinks paid by beverage distributors) tax on SSBs in the United States. Revenues from the tax were put in the general fund with an advisory committee recommending on how to spend the resources to improve health. This ‘before-and-after’ study by the Public Health Institute and the University of North Carolina evaluated changes in prices, sales, consumer spending and beverage consumption one year after implementation of tax on SSBs in Berkeley, California. The study covered 15.5 million supermarket checkouts plus a before-and-after representative telephone survey of 957 adult residents of Berkeley. The key findings were: • The sales (in ounces per transaction) of taxed SSBs significantly declined by 9.6% in the year following implementation in Berkeley, while they rose by 6% in other Bay Area stores without a tax. • No negative impact on overall beverage sales at studied local businesses was observed as people spent more on healthier beverages (increase of 3.5%).Sales of water rose by 15.6% (more in ounces than the decline in SSBs); untaxed fruit, vegetable or tea drink sales increased by 4.37%; and sales of plain milk rose by 0.63%. On the other hand, sales of diet soft drinks and diet energy drinks declined by 9.2%. • The average grocery checkout bill did not increase, nor did the store revenue decrease. • Investments in health increased. The revenue from the first year of the SSB tax was $1,416,973or $12 per capita despite reduced consumption of SSBs. Funds raised went to nutrition and obesity prevention activities in schools, childcare and other community settings. In 2012, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco wrote in the journal Nature that like alcohol and tobacco, sugar is a toxic, addictive substance that should be highly regulated with taxes, laws on where and to whom it can be advertised, and even age–restricted sales. When consumed in excessive amounts, sugar poses dangers similar to those of alcohol. Fructose, specifically, can harm the liver just like alcohol and overconsumption of sugar has been linked with all the diseases involved with metabolic syndrome - hypertension, high triglycerides insulin resistance, diabetes. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) supports introduction of sugar tax along with high alcohol tax, 85% pictorial warning on tobacco packs and high tobacco taxes as an intervention strategy to curb the rising incidence of non communicable diseases (NCDs). Lifestyle disorders like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, COPD are escalating in our country mainly due to an unhealthy lifestyle. What is of more concern is that these diseases are now affecting people at a younger age. It is very important therefore to raise awareness among the public about the lifestyle diseases prevalent in our country and how they can be prevented. In June 2016, the Government of Fiji increased taxes on tobacco, alcohol and SSBs as all of these increase risk of developing NCDs. Excise duty on alcohol and tobacco and alcohol were increased by 18.5%, which included 12.5% excise duty and 6% health levy. A health levy of 5 cents per liter on SSBs was also introduced. A similar tax implementation in Mexico in 2014 reduced sales of sugary drinks by 12% within a year of the tax being implemented. When will India follow suit? (Source: Public Health Institute Press release, PLoS Medicine April 18, 2017) Dr KK Aggarwal National President IMA & HCFI

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