Sugary drink taxes decrease consumption of beverages, study finds
WELLINGTON, New Zealand: Increased intake of sugar‐sweetened beverages (SSBs) is associated with a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dental caries, excess weight gain and numerous other obesity‐related diseases. In response, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended SSB taxation to reduce consumption. A systematic review by researchers from the University of Otago has evaluated whether such a tax does indeed have an impact on purchasing and dietary behaviour.
According to lead author Dr Andrea Teng, Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Public Health at the university’s Wellington campus, the research takes a new approach by combining multiple studies examining the real-world impact of sugary drink taxes on sales, purchases and dietary intake before and after taxes were imposed, and between taxed and untaxed settings.
“This new review presents compelling evidence that sugary drink taxes result in decreased sales, purchasing or dietary intake of taxed beverages. For a 10% tax, sugary drink volumes declined by an average of 10%,” said Teng. “It shows taxes on sugary drinks are an effective tool to reduce consumption, and we know from other research that the high consumption of sugary drinks increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and dental caries,” she continued.
Co-author of the review Dr Amanda Jones, also a research fellow at the department, said that all the individual studies in the review found a reduction in sugary drink consumption, but the impact in some settings was greater than others. Applying tax by thresholds of sugar content, rather than as a percentage of price, appeared to be important for determining a more favourable impact.
WHO recommends governments impose a 20% tax on sugary drinks, saying the evidence for reduced consumption and meaningful health effects is strongest for this food category.
The study, titled “Impact of sugar‐sweetened beverage taxes on purchases and dietary intake: Systematic review and meta‐analysis”, was published online in Obesity Reviews on 19 June 2019, ahead of inclusion in an issue.