Several governments could levy sugar taxes in 2016, following in the footsteps of other countries which have already introduced similar measures in 2014 and 2015.
A worldwide obesity epidemic sustained by the growing marketing and advertising of sugary products (mostly sugary drinks) requires globally-encompassing measures to tackle it. Large nations are now considering sugar taxes for sugary foods and sugary drinks.
The industry is using the same arguments any industry uses when faced with potentially threatening changes: jobs will be lost, products will become the unfair target of public discontent and the already poor class will be further burdened. Another argument against levying a sugar tax is that there aren’t any measurable public health benefits resulting from such a move.
Nonetheless, the example of countries that have enacted a sugar tax tends to contradict the industry’s arguments. Added sugars aren’t just helping the obesity epidemic grow. Sugar promotes diabetes, heart disease and other ailments through a range of complex mechanisms, all leading to public health issues. The developed and the developing world are hit as harshly by the impact sugary drinks and sugary foods have on people’s health.
Taxes on tobacco products have led to the decrease of smoking rates. In a similar fashion, it is expected that a sugar tax implemented according to the specifics of each nation will aid tackle the growing obesity epidemic.
Against this background, several governments could levy sugar taxes in 2016. These are India, Indonesia and the Philippines, three nations were sugary products became hugely popular recently.
In Europe, sugar taxes have been introduced in several states. Scandinavian countries have been leving sugar taxes for some years now. Hungary and France implemented sugar taxes in 2012. Belgium also joined the ranks in 2015. Chile and Barbados made their pledge to a sugar tax too. A more familiar example shows Mexico implementing a sugar tax in 2014. Each of these nations has experimented different degrees of success following the introduction of a tax targeting sugary products.
While this variation may be well used by opponents of the sugar tax as a powerful argument, the counter argument relates to more health-savvy consumers who aren’t willing to pay the price for unhealthy products any longer.
According to Kelly Brownell of Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy (North Carolina):
“This puts political leaders in a stronger position to enact policies such as taxes because the companies aren’t considered unbreakable”.
India, Indonesia and the Philippines are taking a bold step in tackling raising sales and consumption of sugary products. Sugary drinks are particularly problematic as they offer ‘empty-calories’. High in caloric content, these offer no other nutritional value. Paired with aggressive marketing spiking sales rates, sugary drinks are sufficient to drive the obesity epidemic even further.
As such, these developing nations could provide a crucial example as to how a sugar tax levy can work for public health.