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Tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could save money for people and healthcare systems

Posted May 31, 2018

Taxes can benefit the economy, country and even local communities. But can you imagine a tax that would benefit the person who is paying it the most? Furthermore, can you imagine a situation in which people not paying a tax would benefit them and the country? Scientists from The University of Queensland have found that a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would result on tremendous savings in healthcare system.

Sweet cola drink on a hot summer day is delicious, but also hurts your teeth. Image credit: cyclonebill via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If there was a tax on sweetened drinks, people would choose them less often. In other words, choosing not to pay this sugar tax would result in better oral health. But the most important thing is that country would be saving money if people decide not to buy sugary drinks and this tax is not collected. Scientists calculated that Australia would save $666 million in oral health costs over a decade if a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would be introduced. In fact, scientists estimate that around 3.9 million teeth wouldn’t have to be fixed if a 20 % tax would be introduced.

Of course, the size of the tax is for public debates, but it cannot be too small. It is widely known that sugary drinks are responsible for tooth decay and a variety of other health problems. Scientists and doctors have been advocating the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages for quite some time, but it still has not been introduced. Now scientists created an economic model, which simulates consumer response to the tax and the rate of tooth decay. This allowed estimating the amount of money that would be saved over the course of a decade if such tax on sugary drinks was introduced. And the effect would be very significant – healthcare and people would save a lot of money.

Media has been following debates about taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, but the focus was always on obesity. Now scientists want to stress that the problem is not only obesity, but also other health outcomes. Professor Pauline Ford, one of the authors of the study, said: “Our study argues that frequent consumption of beverages such as soft drinks, energy drinks, flavoured water and fruit drinks is of significant concern for oral health in Australia and has been overlooked for too long”.

30 countries in the world have introduced sugar-sweetened beverages tax in efforts to improve public oral health. However, these taxes are fairly new for actual results to be explicitly visible. Scientists hope that their model will become a good point in debates whether taxes on sugary drinks are necessary.


Source: University of Queensland

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