Soft drink tax quantified by U.S. researchers

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 12th January 2012

A team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center and Columbia University have estimated that a nationwide tax on sweetened beverages in the U.S. would prevent nearly 26,000 deaths each year.

Their research was based on the findings of previous U.S. research which estimated that a ‘penny-per-ounce’ tax would reduce consumption of sweetened beverages by 15 per cent over a decade.

However, it appears the authors of the later study have also assumed that 40 per cent of the calories saved by drinking less soda would be replaced by drinking more milk and healthier beverages.

Based on these assumptions and latest government statistics, the researchers claim that a tax on sweetened soft drinks would prevent nearly 100,000 cases of heart disease, 8,000 strokes, and 240,000 cases of diabetes per year in the U.S., and ultimately reduce deaths by 26,000 each year.

Cost of high-calorie drinks assessed

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) previously listed reducing intake of these beverages as one of its chief obesity prevention strategies in 2009. Several U.S. states and cities, including California and New York City, already are considering such taxes.

Every year, Americans drink 13.8 billion gallons of soda, fruit punch, sweet tea, sports drinks and other sweetened beverages – a mass consumption of sugar that is believed to be fueling the soaring obesity and diabetes rates in the U.S.

The University of California’s associate professor of biostatistics and medicine, Dr Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo said that, in addition to US$13 billion in direct tax revenue nationally (if the tax were imposed nationwide), such a tax would save the public US$17 billion per year in health care-related expenses due to the decline of obesity-related diseases.

Dr Bibbins-Domingo said, “Consumption of beverages high in calories but poor in nutritional value is the number one source of added sugar and excess calories in the American diet. Sugar-sweetened drinks are linked to type 2 diabetes and weight gain.”