A substantial tax on sugar sweetened drinks could help reduce obesity

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f5947 (Published 31 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5947
  1. Jason P Block, assistant professor
  1. 1Obesity Prevention Program, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School/Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, MA 02215, USA
  1. Jason_block{at}harvardpilgrim.org

Governments should act now, and real world evidence will follow

Public health researchers, advocates, and policy makers have increasingly proposed taxes on sugar sweetened drinks as a way to reverse the rising consumption of such drinks—a trend believed to be a major contributor to the global obesity epidemic. In a linked article (doi:10.1136/bmj.f6189), Briggs and colleagues have modelled the expected impact of such a tax on energy intake and the prevalence of obesity and overweight.1

According to recent national data from the United States, 12-19 year olds consumed an average of 1260 kJ per day (301 calories) in sugar sweetened drinks.2 Adults over 20 years consumed 850 kJ per day.3 Consumption is lower in the United Kingdom—448 kJ per day for 4-18 year olds and 682 kJ per day for 19-64 year olds in one survey—but still substantial.4 In response, several European countries, including Hungary, Finland, and France, have recently levied or increased existing taxes on these drinks.5 In the United States, 34 states and the District of Columbia have food taxes that affect sugar sweetened drinks; 23 of these have taxes specifically targeting these drinks.6

The question remains—do these taxes …

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