Revenues raised from taxing sugary drinks will help support health initiative as well as support those in financial crisis. *Photo supplied
Revenues raised from taxing sugary drinks will help support health initiative as well as support those in financial crisis. *Photo supplied

Last month, we talked about Mexico and the tax that they are imposing on sugary drinks. Credit Suisse has publicly supported Mexico’s bold tactics to help reduce the obesity rates in Mexico. 

Revenue raised will help support health initiatives as well as support those in financial crisis.

After last month’s article, several people told me that tax on sugary drinks would never work. But researching this solution I turned up an interesting study conducted by Harvard University. 

They increased the price of high calorie beverages by one cent per ounce. So a 12 ounce can of soda became 12 cents more expensive. To everyone’s surprise, this increase resulted in a 16 per cent decline in the sale of sugary drinks. In addition, the Harvard team used this increase as an opportunity to introduce an awareness campaign on why drinking water was best.

Similar research has been conducted at the University of North Carolina and Barry Popkin, one of the top experts on beverage consumption, said people do respond to a price increase and reduce their consumption of sugary drinks accordingly.

Drinking sugary drinks contributes to obesity and diabetes. 

Many of the soda companies do not want to mention diabetes as when they did they found sales went down by 39 per cent. 

The world projections for diabetes were 450 million by 2025 but the latest figures show that this is now 592 million. We simply can no longer ignore this and we have to do something.

Type 2 diabetes used to be a disease of the elderly but now we are seeing more and more young adults and children being diagnosed with diabetes. Along with diabetes they are having problems with their hearts, their livers and even cancer. 

We have known for over 60 years that changes to the diet have resulted in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

During the Korean War US army surgeons got a chance to do something unusual; they performed autopsies on lots of young people. They found plaque in the arteries of American casualties, even among teenagers. However, there were no blockages in the hearts of the youthful Koreans who had died. At this time, it was believed to be the fat in the diet. Americans who fought in the Korean War were fuelled by Coco-Cola and its rivals. Modern analysis now says almost certainly the sugary drinks were to blame.

 In Fife Scotland, they are pushing for a tax to be levied on sugary drinks. Farmer Mike Small and advocates from the sustainable food campaign have said that the tax will happen. To quote Mike Small “it’s just so obvious. A report from Scottish doctors said that type 2 diabetes has doubled. They’re amputating limbs from people in their twenties.”

Europe is following Mexico’s lead. The UK has debated it and showed that by adding 20p per litre of sugary drink they would raise 1 billion pounds in revenue per year. You would think this was a no-brainer. The problem is the sugary drink companies are putting pressure on governments not to tax them. Denmark had to reverse some of their taxes because fast food companies threatened to move their locations across the border into Germany and Denmark would lose those jobs.

Help remove the debt

So what should we do?  Bermuda is in debt. What better way to help remove some of that debt. Tax the sugary drinks, use the revenue to offset the national debt and at the same time raise awareness as to why water is best. 

To use another phrase my husband hates, ‘it’s a win-win all the way round.’ One of the soda companies has introduced a campaign: “Escape to a carefree world…….Don’t grow up. Drink 7-UP.”

Unfortunately if our young people continue to consume these sugary drinks they won’t grow up and they will end up dying young. We need to protect our future. Stop drinking sugary drinks. Tax sugary drinks and ban them from public places. Act bold so our young people can grow old!

 


 Debbie Jones 
is currently a vice president of the International Diabetes Federation and a diabetes nurse educator at the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s Diabetes Education Centre. She writes a monthly diabetes column for the Bermuda Sun to help educate people about one of the island’s biggest killers.