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Taxes on Sugared Sodas Could Cut Consumption

Last Updated: September 17, 2009.

Imposing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could reduce consumption and generate income for obesity reduction and healthy eating education interventions, according to an article published online Sept. 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Imposing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could reduce consumption and generate income for obesity reduction and healthy eating education interventions, according to an article published online Sept. 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D., of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and colleagues summarize the evidence that shows how consumption of caloric drinks has increased over the last three decades and, at an individual level, is associated with higher risk of overweight and obesity.

The researchers note that the economic rationale for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is based on "market failures" associated with the marketing of such drinks, i.e., consumers make buying decisions based on incomplete information and advertising is targeted at children and adolescents who are less likely to consider long-term consequences over immediate gratification. An excise tax of 1 cent per ounce would reduce calorie consumption from sugar-sweetened drinks by at least 10 percent and revenue from such taxes could be used to fund obesity-prevention programs, they argue.

"Much as taxes on tobacco products are routine at both state and federal levels because they generate revenue and they confer a public health benefit with respect to smoking rates, we believe taxes on beverages that help drive the obesity epidemic should and will become routine," the authors conclude.

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