Do Sugar Taxes Reduce Obesity?

Sugar beverages linked to worsening health! But can a sugar tax really help?

In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) called on all sectors to pay attention to the application of policies such as taxation and increase the retail price of sugar-sweetened beverages to help consumers change their dietary choices and further improve obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. At the time, Douglas Bettcher, director of the WHO’s Department of Chronic Disease Prevention, said that “excessive intake of free sugars through products such as sugar-sweetened beverages is the main reason for the rise in obesity and diabetes in the world.” In addition, there are many studies showing that Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc., and is also positively correlated with increased mortality. Health factors make sugar a target of criticism.

Supporter: The sugar tax not only changes consumer behavior, but also allows the industry to revise the formula on its own initiative!

Those who support the sugar tax do so because they believe that it can effectively reduce the probability of people buying sugar-sweetened beverages and further reduce their calorie intake. In 2014, Mexico introduced a 10% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Since its implementation, sales of sugar-sweetened beverages by low-income households in Mexico have been reduced by 12%, while high-income households have reduced by 5%, and tax revenue has increased by 23.2 billion pesos each year. In Chile, which also pushed for a sugar tax in 2014, a study found that monthly purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages fell by 21.6 percent overall.

Opponents: The sugar tax instead drives people to buy other junk food and even affects the economy!

However, there has been no shortage of opponents to the sugar tax policy, who believe that there is currently no conclusive evidence that the sugar tax is effective, because it is difficult to prove a causal relationship between changes in consumer behavior and the sugar tax. After the sugar tax was introduced in the United Kingdom, the market research company Nielsen conducted a poll on the views of local people before and after the implementation of the sugar tax. The result showed that 62% of the people said that the sugar tax did not affect their consumption behavior. 11% of the public had said they would stop buying sugar-sweetened beverages after the tax law was implemented, which also dropped to just 1%.

Sugar reduction is important! Besides sugar tax, what else can be done?

With the awakening of health awareness, sugar reduction has now become a global trend, but should it be promoted by national regulations? What is involved in this issue is not only the struggle between the government and the industry, but also the interests of the general public.

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