The World Health Organization recommended that international governments raise taxes on sugary drinks by 20 percent in a report released Tuesday, entitled “Fiscal Policies for Diet and Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases.”
The recommendation is part of a plan to fight what WHO has deemed global obesity and diabetes epidemics.
Raising taxes on these drinks should lead to a proportional drop in their consumption, according to the report.
"We are now in a place where we can say there is enough evidence and we encourage countries to implement effective tax policy," Temo Waqanivalu, coordinator at WHO's department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Health Promotion, told a briefing.
Sugary drinks have already been taxed in Berkeley, Calif., at a penny per ounce, after a landslide victory in favor of the tax in November 2014. A study published in June showed that this tax has reduced consumption of sugary drinks by 21 percent in low-income neighborhoods, which were the targeted demographic of the law.
“Low-income communities bear the brunt of the health consequences of obesity and diabetes, so this decline in soda and sugary beverage consumption is very encouraging,” said study senior author Kristine Madsen, an associate professor of public health at UC Berkeley, in a statement.
In Mexico, however, a similar tax of ten percent showed a climb in soda sales after two years, despite sales of sugary drinks dropping immediately after the tax was instated.
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“Coke is like cigarettes—it turns you into an addict,” Luis de León, a 24-year-old Mexico City parking attendant, told the Wall Street Journal.
Health experts say that governments must also raise awareness about sugar intake to ensure that these taxes work.
“The sugar tax is an important piece but not the only one,’’ said Kelly Henning, who heads the public-health program at Bloomberg Philanthropies.
After Berkeley, Philadelphia became the second U.S. city to pass a sugary drinks tax in June. The tax will be implemented in January.
Three Californian cities – San Francisco, Albany, and Oakland – will vote on sugary drinks taxes in November, and Boulder, Colorado, is also considering a ballot measure.
Obesity more than doubled worldwide between 1980 and 2014, with more than 500 million people being classified as obese, including 42 million children under age 5 in 2015, according to WHO.
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Soda image: MrTinDc