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Sugar Tax May Drive Up Alcohol Consumption

© AP Photo / Wilfredo LeeFILE - This July 15, 2013 file photo shows cans of Coca-Cola in Doral, Fla.
FILE - This July 15, 2013 file photo shows cans of Coca-Cola in Doral, Fla. - Sputnik International
A leading UK medical journal urges a more “nuanced” approach to tackling sugar-driven obesity and alcoholism which threatens to become a major health crisis in both developed and developing countries.

In a study published January 23, Britain's Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health concluded that efforts to impose taxes on sugary drinks could have the unintended consequence of accelerating alcohol consumption.

The report's authors commented, "Although this analysis can highlight significant relationships between beverages purchased, it cannot explain why these relationships arise. Increasing the price of sugar sweetened beverages has the potential to both increase and decrease the purchase of alcohol, suggesting more nuanced price options across a range of beverages may be more effective than a single tax on high-sugar ones."

Consumption patterns were shown to be more easily affected by changes in the price of sugary non-alcoholic beverages, which could in some cases mean that both a household's consumption of sugared drinks and alcohol could rise as a result.

An activist takes part in a demonstration outside the European Commission (EC) headquarters ahead of statements by the EC on the effectiveness of existing measures against tax evasion and money-laundering in light of the recent Panama Paper revelations, in Brussels, Belgium, April 12, 2016. - Sputnik International
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The study noted that many alcoholic beverages contain equivalent or higher concentrations of sugar than do ordinary sugary drinks, with beer and wine for example containing slightly higher sugar levels than Coca Cola.

The study includes a survey of over 31,000 British households to forecast the impact of a hypothetical price rise on consumer demand. It projected a modest impact on consumption levels of sugared drinks among lower-income households, who spent just under half of their beverage expenditure on sweetened beverages and showed no sign of lessening their consumption of alcohol as a result.

Higher taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages have become significantly more common around the world in recent years. Such measures have been introduced in Hungary, France, Finland, Belgium, Portugal, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and several jurisdictions in the United States amid fears of an explosion in rates of obesity-related diseases such as Cardiovascular Disease and Type Two Diabetes.

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