New research published in the New Zealand Medical Journal found that a tobacco and alcohol-style price regulation on fizzy drinks would help combat the growing obesity pandemic.
A 20 per cent tax would reduce energy consumption by 0.2 per cent or 20kJ a day and potentially postpone 67 deaths a year from cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Carried out by the University of Auckland along with the University of Otago, the health effect of such a tax would see its most positive results among Maori and Pacific consumers who are more responsive to food price hikes. The taxes would also be beneficial to children and younger people who are also price-sensitive.
“High sugar intakes are linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease – a strong case can therefore be made for efforts to reduce consumption,” says lead researcher Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu of the National Institute for Health Innovation.
Professor Mhurchu argued that the nutrient-poor soft drinks contributed to up to 29 per cent of total sugar consumed by 15 to 18-year-olds, while making up 24 per cent of 5 to 14 year olds’ daily sugar intake.
According to the study leaders, “randomised controlled trial data have shown convincingly that reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages decreases weight gain in children.”
As well as the significant health benefits, the 20 per cent tax could generate up to $40 million in new tax which could contribute towards health education programs, the researchers calculated.
The move would follow the lead of Mexico, a country battling one of the largest obesity problems in the world, which has imposed a 10 per cent “soda” tax.