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Tax on Sugared Drinks Can Help Tackle Obesity Epidemic

Penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks would cut consumption by over 10 percent

WEDNESDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) -- A penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would result in a more than 10 percent reduction in consumption, and as such would be a significant contributor to the fight against obesity in America, according to an article published online April 8 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D., of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., health commissioner for the City of New York, write that sugar-sweetened drinks account for 10 to 15 percent of the calories that children and adolescents consume, and that a child's risk of obesity increases by 60 percent for every daily extra can or glass consumed.

If the price of sugar-sweetened drinks increased by 10 percent due to taxes, it would reduce consumption by 7.8 percent or more, the authors note. Asymmetry in the buyer-seller relationship, whereby manufacturers make health claims about their products and target advertising at vulnerable young children; the contribution of obesity to the taxpayer's health costs burden; and the potential for revenue generation all add up to a strong argument for a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, the authors state.

"Objections have certainly been raised: that such a tax would be regressive, that food taxes are not comparable to tobacco or alcohol taxes because people must eat to survive…," the authors write. "But the poor are disproportionately affected by diet-related diseases and would derive the greatest benefit from reduced consumption; sugared beverages are not necessary for survival."

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