Taxing Soda and Booze Can Spark Healthy Spiral, Research Says

Taxing Soda and Booze Can Spark Healthy Spiral, Research Says

  • Tool to reduce ‘death and suffering’ can help the poor
  • Experts call for effort to stem obesity, disease costs

Nobody likes taxes, but new research shows they can be good for your health.

Taxing products such as soda, alcohol and tobacco can steer consumers toward healthier choices and avert a ruinous tumble in which obesity fuels disease and medical costs push people further into poverty, data from countries ranging from Chile to India show. The analysis was published Wednesday in The Lancet medical journal.

A tax on unhealthy goods “is probably the single-most important measure that can be taken to reduce death and suffering,” Larry Summers, the U.S. economist and former Treasury Secretary, said in an interview. “That’s why I think it’s important.”

Summers’s commentary accompanied the Lancet report, which focused on ways to curb illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer that can be blamed for 38 million deaths each year. A research group pulled together five studies and found that taxes on unhealthy products can work without disproportionately harming the poor.

New MilkyBar

When it comes to sweet drinks, more countries are willing to test taxes to tackle obesity along with budget deficits, potentially hurting companies such as Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc., according to Bloomberg Intelligence. The U.K.’s own sugar tax experiment is scheduled to take effect Friday.

Wealthier households usually shoulder more of the tax burden because they spend more on alcohol, sodas and snacks, the researchers said in the Lancet. Poorer families also tend to reduce consumption more in response to higher prices. Such taxes work best if some of the revenue is used to fund programs for the poor, they found.

Companies are responding by working to cut sugar and calories. Nestle SA has started selling slimmed-down Milkybar chocolates in Britain and Ireland in the first implementation of a new technology that promises the same sweetness with 30 percent less sugar.

In Mexico, the introduction of a soft-drinks tax resulted in a 17 percent decrease in purchases among lower-income groups, and almost no change in higher-income groups, the Lancet report said.

Obesity, once seen as a problem plaguing only wealthier nations, is now on the rise in lower-income regions too. Countries must tackle it in the same way as malnutrition, said Summers, who chairs a task force on fiscal policy for health with Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-04/taxing-soda-and-booze-can-spark-healthy-spiral-research-says

Two-thirds of people in Mexico, Chile and Ecuador are obese, UN finds

Study calls epidemic frightening and finds that overnutrition and sedentary lifestyles are costing countries tens of billions of dollars every year

More than two-thirds of people living in Mexico, Chile and Ecuador are overweight or obese, costing their economies tens of billions of dollars every year, driving rates of disease and straining health services, according to a new UN report.

While the number of hungry people in Latin America and the Caribbean has halved in the past 25 years, the region is now struggling to combat an obesity epidemic.

Changing diets, including more processed food that are high in salt, sugar and fat, along with more sedentary lifestyles have triggered a rising tide of obesity, experts say.

The implications for the future of countries are frightening … undernutrition is declining, but overnutrition is expected to become the largest social and economic burden in the region, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said in a statement.

The report by the WFP and the UNs Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said over the next six decades people being overweight and obese would cost Mexico an estimated $13bn a year, Ecuador $3bn and Chile $1bn.

Undernutrition, when people do not get enough food, and obesity itself a form of malnutrition are two sides of the same coin, and together they inflict a so-called double burden of disease on people and economies, the report said.

Undernutrition impairs child growth and brain development, while obesity can led to type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

We now witness a worrying trend among vulnerable communities with cases of undernourishment and overweight simultaneously within the same families, said Miguel Barreto, WFPs regional director said in a statement.

Both undernourishment and overweight represent a serious burden for the health of those families, that eventually translates into losses in productivity, and in pressure on the health and education systems in the country where they live.

According to the World Health Organisation, obesity is an epidemic worldwide, killing 2.8 million adults every year, and obesity-related conditions now cause more deaths than hunger.

In Latin America, obesity is increasingly affecting the regions poor, particularly women.

In Mexico, a country that faces one of the worlds most acute obesity crisis, 74% of women are obese or overweight compared with 70% of men, the report said.

The report urged food companies to play a greater role in combating obesity.

The food industry has the opportunity to ensure the production, availability and accessibility of healthier food products, it said.

Governments should also do more to promote exercise and health eating and place greater controls on food labelling.

The report noted Chiles efforts to combat obesity, including an 18% tax on sugary drinks introduced in 2014 one of the worlds highest along with laws that restrict the advertising of unhealthy foods targeting children.

In 2014, Mexico also introduced a 10% tax on fizzy drinks, and 2016 research by the British Medical Journal found that the sugar tax led to as much as a 12% reduction in sales during the first year it was implemented.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/25/obesity-epidemic-latin-america-mexico-chile-ecuador-un-report