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Sugar taxes have added a controversial gleam to sugary products like soda — but they raise the level of public health, even in the healthcare industry itself, according to a Tufts University study referenced in a post on the American Heart Association's blog.
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Sugar taxes are good for everyone
The organization used computer models that evaluate potential benefits of varying kinds of sugar taxes, including ones implemented on sugar content and general volume — and found some options bested others.
Adding extra "sugar taxes" to specific products has seen much criticism from people who believe its oppressive or even greedy. But previous studies found sugar taxes — which are usually low — are a great way to reduce how much refined sugar people consume.
This has significant implications for both public and personal health. Eating or drinking refined sugar in excess — in the form of soda, candy, ice cream, and fruit juices has been linked with several health risk issues, including greater odds of developing specific forms of cancer, vascular problems, heart disease, diabetes risk, and vision issues.
In fact, the estimated number of cardiovascular events preventable with an absolute sugar content tax is 1.8 million.
Preventable diseases happen with sugar
Additionally, typically preventable conditions associated with eating large quantities of refined sugar enlarge public health costs, which raises insurance and tax rates, depending on location. For these reasons alone, sugar taxes are soundly embraced in many regions, but the question of which kind of sugar tax to use is still debatable.
"Overwhelming evidence confirms that food prices have a big impact on purchasing decisions. Taxing sugary drinks influences consumer choices, reducing consumption," said Yujin Lee, the study's co-lead author. "U.S. cities have introduced volume taxes on sugary drinks. But our findings suggest that a tiered fixed sugar content tax would be best, reducing consumer intakes while also encouraging manufacturer reformations to reduce the sugar content of their products."
The best sugar tax bet
The AHA performed an evaluation of three disparate sugar taxes — specifically the ones applied to beverages like juice and soda: tiered, which modifies the tax rate based on the quantity of used sugar; volume, which deals with ounces regardless of sugar content; and fixed — a flat-tax rate per teaspoon of sugar independent of product size.
States in the U.S. that have already implemented sugar taxes have only tried volume, administering a roughly $0.01 tax per ounce of the beverage independent of total sugar contained within. While the AHA says all three options could improve public health and decrease healthcare costs, tiered- and sugar-content-based taxes are most effective.