Imposing Soda Tax: A Solution for The Ballooning Diabetes and Heart Disease Problems

Global diabetes and heart disease rates have ballooned over the last 25 years. Among the countries that have the highest rate of diabetes and heart diseases, Mexico tops the list according to Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo. She is a UCSF professor medicine and director of UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations. Another problem in the country is obesity. With the global obesity rate growing at 11% and 15%, respectively, for both men and women, Mexico harbors a lot of obese individuals in the world. It is strikingly alarming to take note that around 75% of adults in Mexico are obese.

To solve the problem, the Mexican government proposed a solution to address this chronic health issue by imposing a 10% excise tax on sugary drinks in 2014. This tax rate is designed to curb the consumption of sugary beverages. Thus, decreasing the number of people who have diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, this strategy allows the government to save about $1 billion in direct health care cost due to these conditions.

Is the Sugary Drink Tax Effective?

In a study published in PLOS Medicine, simulation models of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in Mexico was done. The simulation model was developed on the well-established model used in the United States in 1980.

Researchers from the Instituto Nacional Salud de Publica (INSP) in Cuernavaca in Mexico and from the UC San Francisco estimated that the sugary drink tax in the country will likely prevent 20,000 cases of heart attack, 190,000 cases of diabetes, and 19,000 deaths among adults from the age of 35 to 90 within the next ten years.

The sugary drink tax is not the only tool to turn around this health epidemic in Mexico, but it will also mean a lot of savings for the people and the government according to senior researcher, Simon Barquera. For instance, it will reduce healthcare spending such as clinic visits and hospitalization by as much as $983 billion. The health benefits will strongly be felt among young adults who are avid consumers of sugary drinks.

Backed by The World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report that indicated that imposing sugary drinks could decrease Type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, and obesity. Increasing the retail price to 20% can trigger a reduction in consumption because people will have second thoughts about buying expensive drinks.

Obesity is a rising problem in many rich and developing countries. The problem started more than a decade ago, and it has affected mostly people from the middle-income and lower-income bracket.

The sugary drink tax imposed in Mexico in 2014, according to WHO spokesman Paul Garwood, was favorable wherein the agency observed a substantial drop in the consumption of not only sugar but also caffeine.

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World Health Organization Supports Taxing Sugary Beverages

In 2013, global beverage volume sales reached 994.1 billion liters. The continuous rise of beverage drinks has consequently lead to a rise in the rate of obesity. According to Dr. Douglas Bettcher from the World Health Organization’s Department for the Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases, consumption of free sugars from sugary drinks have contributed to the global obesity and diabetes pandemic.

Since 1980 the prevalence of obesity has more than doubled to 39% of people around the world in 2014. To make matters worse, there are an estimated 42 million children under the age of five who are suffering from obesity. Especially those in developing countries like Africa and Asia.

Do We Need Sugary Beverages?

Nutritionists argue that while most of us have a sweet tooth, we don’t necessarily need free sugar in our diet. In fact, WHO recommends that people should consume free sugar below 10% of their energy needs. This means that an average adult may consume a single serving of sugary drink per day or a total volume of 250mL.

sugary beverages WHO Taxes diabetes obesity

Dr. Francesco Branca from the WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development noted that foods with free sugar have high caloric value. So instead of consuming free sugar, it should be avoided like the plague to improve health conditions.

Taxation Is the Solution

The alarming rise of obesity and diabetes all over the world is taking a toll on the global healthcare setting. The World Health Organization suggested that implementing higher taxation on sugary drinks to curb these two main health problems.

In the report released by the WHO titled Fiscal Policies for Diet and Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), reduction of the consumption of free sugars as well as calories are seen as the answer to the global obesity pandemic. Free sugars include simple sugars like fructose and glucose as well as disaccharides like table sugar and sucrose. These are added to food by the food manufacturers when creating their products.

But how to do we decrease the amount of sugary drink consumption? WHO recommend adding high taxes to these sugary beverages to discourage people from consuming too many sugary drinks. Thereby reducing their risk to obesity as well as other sugar-related diseases like tooth decay.

People who are affected by obesity and diabetes often fall into the low-income level. Moreover, sugary drinks are often consumed by people in the low-income levels too! Taxation of sugary drinks will most likely affect these people, but they will also be the ones to gain the highest health benefits.

Other Solutions

Aside from implementing higher taxation of sugary drinks, changes in fiscal policies to improve health should be undertaken. The World Health Organization recommended governments to subsidize fruits and vegetables to reduce the price by 30%. This will encourage more people to buy fruits and vegetables. Moreover, higher taxes on foods high in saturated fats and salt should also be implemented. Coupled with reduced consumption of sugary drinks, these fiscal policy changes will produce a lot of benefits for the health of individuals, globally.

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