health benefits and the sugar tax, soft drinks levy

LIVINGLIVING

The incoming levy on soft drinks has been long overdue. We

look at what it should achieve and how people might react.

HEALTH BENEFITS

AND THE SUGAR TAX

The UK soft drinks industry

levy, due to be introduced

in April 2018, is estimated

to have significant health

benefits, especially

among children, according to the first study

to estimate its health impact, published in

The Lancet Public Health in December

2016. The proposed levy relates to the

sugar content of drinks: no tax on diet

and low sugar drinks; a low tax on midsugar drinks (5-8g of sugar per 100ml);

and a high tax on high-sugar drinks (over

8g of sugar per 100ml).

In the study, researchers modelled

three ways that the soft drinks industry

may respond to the levy: reformulating

drinks to reduce sugar content, passing

some of the levy to consumers by raising

the price of sugary drinks, and using

marketing to encourage consumers to

switch to lower sugar drinks. For each

response they identified a realistic better

and worse case scenario for health, by

estimating the likely impact on rates of

obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

The study found that an industry

response that focuses on reducing sugar

content is likely to have the greatest

impact on health, with additional benefits

if industry increases the price of high and

mid-sugar drinks, or can successfully use

marketing to persuade consumers to

switch to low sugar drinks.

Reduced sugars

The study's authors estimate that a

reduction of 30% in the sugar content

of all high-sugar drinks - a step already

implemented by some manufacturers -

and a 15% reduction in mid-sugar drinks

could result in 144000 fewer adults and

children with obesity, 19000 fewer cases

of type 2 diabetes per year, and 269000

fewer teeth suffering from decay annually.

Passing on half of the cost of the levy

to consumers leading to an increase in

the price of high and mid-sugar drinks

of up to 20% was estimated to reduce

the number of adults and children with

obesity by 81600, result in 10800 fewer

cases of diabetes and 149000 fewer

decaying teeth per year. Children are likely

to be benefit most, however the study

also shows that the health benefits of the

tax could be reduced if industry responds

by increasing the price across their drinks

range (including zero sugar/diet drinks,

bottled water, and fruit juice) or if heavy

marketing led consumers to switch from

low to mid-sugar drinks.

In a statement, the Obesity Health

Alliance said: "We're pleased to see the

government move forward with the Soft

Drinks Industry Levy which is a necessary

measure to help decrease our sugar

intake, and reduce the burden of obesity

and its devastating health complications.

Sugary soft drinks are currently the largest

source of sugar for children, and this high

sugar intake is driving the deadly obesity

epidemic which costs our health service

billions of pounds every year. Tackling

obesity today will save money tomorrow.

We support the Soft Drinks Industry Levy

to help protect our children's future health,

and make healthier choices easier for

everyone."

Commenting on The Lancet Public

Health's study, the Obesity Health Alliance

added, "This study demonstrates the

massive health improvements that will

come from manufacturers reducing the

Index

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