For sugar tax supporters, 2016 may be the sweet spot

Mon Feb 8, 2016 9:49am EST
 
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By Martinne Geller

LONDON (Reuters) - 2016 could be the year of the sugar tax, as several large nations consider levies on sweetened food and drinks to battle obesity and fatten government coffers.

For years, public health advocates have called for such measures as one prong of an attack against a growing obesity epidemic that has fueled rates of heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses, in both the developed and developing worlds.

Supporters hope the taxes will raise the cost of high-calorie products and lead to a decline in consumption, in the same way that tobacco taxes have helped reduce smoking.

Opponents say taxes provide no health benefits, unfairly target certain types of product, hurt jobs and burden the poor.

Scandinavian countries have had such taxes, with varying degrees of success, for many years, and in 2012, France and Hungary joined the list, followed by Mexico in 2014.

But some public policy experts see them becoming more widespread, as nations seek to bolster their finances in an uncertain global economy and a new generation of savvy consumers is more concerned about health and less trusting of big corporations.

"This puts political leaders in a stronger position to enact policies such as taxes because the companies aren't considered unbreakable," said Kelly Brownell, dean of Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy in North Carolina.

Now India, the Philippines and Indonesia have said they are studying similar levies while Britain debated the issue in parliament late last year and Prime Minister David Cameron said in January that he would not rule out a sugar tax.   Continued...

 
A boy sitting in a toy tricycle is pushed past shelves of bottled beverages at a supermarket in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu province in this April 10, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer/Files