Ask Dr. Nandi: Soda taxes are a 'no-brainer' for public health, says author of a new study on them

Posted: 12:01 PM, May 16, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-16 16:01:52Z
Ask Dr. Nandi: Soda taxes are a 'no-brainer' for public health, says author of a new study on them

Over consumption of empty calorie drinks have had long-term negative consequences on the health of Americans. But now a new study finds that adding taxes to soda may be the answer to this widespread problem.

Question: What is the purpose of a Soda Tax?

The purpose of a Soda Tax is to decrease the amount of unhealthy, sugary beverages that people frequently drink. So by increasing the cost, the hope is that people will instead make better choices which then positively impacts the overall health of Americans.

Question: What is the research showing? Is it working?

Yes, the good news is that research has shown that these added taxes can work. For instance, in the city of Philadelphia where this study was done, an excise tax of 1.5 cents per oz was added to sugar and artificially sweetened drinks. And because of this, there was an estimated 38% decrease in the sales of taxed drinks. That’s pretty amazing. And get this, that percentage translated into almost one billion fewer ounces sold of sugary type drinks. So that definitely has the potential to benefit human health.

Question: So how could this benefit the public?

We unfortunately face some serious chronic diseases related to diet choices, like obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease. And these of course can lead to death. For instance, in 2015, diabetes which is associated with excess sugar and sweetener consumption was listed as a contributing factor on almost 80 000 death certificates. That’s not too surprising as the CDC has estimated that at least 27 million people in the US are living with diagnosed and undiagnosed TYPE 2 diabetes. And looking at who these folks are, overall, there is a disproportionate number of lower income families that are facing the devastating challenges that come with chronic diseases. So soda taxes could really play a role here. Not only could it possibly help people’s health, but the research found no increases in other drinks purchased. So that likely means that families were also saving money. So this sounds like a win-win to me.