NEJM writers make case for soda tax

Recently the proposal to tax sugar-sweetened beverages has gained significant traction. A powerful argument for the tax from a group of prominent experts appears online as a Health Policy Report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Kelly Brownell and colleagues write that “the science base linking the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to the risk of chronic diseases is clear.” Although the exact effects of a tax can not be known in advance, it would certainly help reduce soda consumption and, in addition, “generate substantial revenue to prevent obesity and address other external costs resulting from the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as to fund other health-related programs. Much as taxes on tobacco products are routine at both state and federal levels because they generate revenue and they confer a public health benefit with respect to smoking rates, we believe that taxes on beverages that help drive the obesity epidemic should and will become routine.”

In the US, calories from sugar-sweetened beverages doubled between 1997 and 2002, the authors report. They cite numerous studies demonstrating a strong association between increased consumption of  sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity.

Earlier this week we reported on a worrisome study in Circulation that found a frightening increase in risk in the US population in the last decade. In an accompanying editorial to that study, Rob van Dam and Walter Willett (Willett is also a co-author of the NEJM report) argues that efforts to control obesity can not be addressed through a “traditional high-risk medical approach,” but instead must be addressed at the population level. The soda tax proposed in the NEJM is one of the first concrete proposals that will undoubtedly emerge from this agenda.


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  1. […] an association with the largest seller of sugared sodas in the entire world. Let there be no doubt: soda companies are part of the problem, not the solution, and Coca-Cola can’t make up for the damage it has caused by throwing some […]

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