THE World Health Organization (WHO) has called on nations to tax sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) to provoke price hikes and reduce consumption.
The agency said regular consumption of SSBs, including soft drinks, flavoured milks, energy drinks, vitamin waters, fruit juices and sweetened iced teas, is associated with an increased risk of dental cavities, type two diabetes, weight gain and obesity in both children and adults.
It also said the products induce heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Speaking on its first-ever global tax manual for SSBs on Tuesday, December 13, in a statement, the agency said at least 85 countries were already implementing some SBB taxations.
It argued that SSB, tobacco and alcohol taxes had proven to be cost-effective ways of preventing diseases, injuries and premature mortality, stressing that SSB tax could also encourage companies to reformulate their products to reduce sugar content.
The WHO manual highlights the experiences of countries that have successfully implemented the tax, including Mexico, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Evidence shows that implementing taxes on SSBs increases product prices and reduces demand, resulting in fewer purchases, said the agency.
It added that a one-time global SSB tax increase that raised prices by 50 per cent could generate additional revenues of US$1.4 trillion over 50 years.
“Taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages can be a powerful tool to promote health because they save lives and prevent disease while advancing health equity and mobilizing revenue for countries that could be used to realize universal health coverage,” the statement quoted Director of Health Promotion at WHO, Ruediger Krech, a doctor, as saying.
The statement noted that a recent Gallup Poll also found that most people across the United States, Tanzania, Jordan, India and Colombia supported taxes on SSBs, alcohol and tobacco.