Tax on sugary drinks has potential to cut childhood obesity, improve health

Children, Sugar Drinks, Obesity, Overweight Children

Sugar tax will be introduced in the UK from April 2018 and this particular move will not only cut down childhood obesity, but has potential to improve health of hundreds of thousands of adults and children in the UK, a new study has shown.

According to the study published in Lancet Public Health journal passing on half of the cost of the levy to consumers there will be a bump of about 20 per cent in the prices of high and mid-sugar drinks. This increase in prices is predicted to reduce consumption of the sugary drinks and this in turn will reduce the obesity and improve health of children as well as adults. The study predicts a reduction in number of obese adults and children by 81,600, cases of diabetes by 10,800, and decaying teeth by 149,000.

For their study researchers modelled different ways in which the soft drinks industry may respond to the levy. First is that they will reformulate the drinks to reduce sugar content and thereby evade the levy. Second is that they will pass some of the levy to consumers by raising the price of sugary drinks. Finally the third mechanism could be them using marketing to encourage consumers to switch to lower sugar drinks.

For each response they identified a realistic better and worse case scenario for health, by estimating the likely impact on rates of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

The study finds that an industry response that focuses on reducing sugar content is likely to have the greatest impact on health, with additional benefits if industry increases the price of high and mid-sugar drinks, or can successfully use marketing to persuade consumers to switch to low sugar drinks. Reduction of sugar content by 30 per cent and a 15 percent reduction for moderately sugary drinks could result in 144,000 fewer adults and children being obese. Such a step would also lead to 19,000 fewer new cases of Type 2 diabetes each year and a yearly reduction of 269,000 teeth affected by decay.

“Children stand to benefit the most, so this study is a clarion call to industry to fulfill their moral obligations to promote child wellbeing,” said Neena Modi from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.