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WHO sugar tax

WHO: Taxing sugary drinks will reduce obesity

Governments should tax sugary drinks to fight the global epidemics of obesity and diabetes, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

But the sugar industry swiflty branded these recommendations as “discriminatory” and “unproven”.

Drinking fewer calorific sweet drinks is the best way to curb excessive weight and prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, although fat and salt in processed foods are also at fault, WHO officials said.

They added that a 20 percent price increase could reduce consumption of sweet drinks by the same proportion.

“We are now in a place where we can say there is enough evidence to move on this and we encourage countries to implement effective tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to prevent obesity,” Temo Waqanivalu, of WHO’s department of Non-communicable Diseases and Health Promotion, told a briefing.

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, now an ambassador for WHO’s non-communicable diseases department said, “Smart policies can help to turn the tides on this deadly epidemic, especially those aimed at reducing consumption of sugary drinks, which is fuelling obesity rates.”

The global soft drink market is worth nearly $870-billion in annual sales.

2016 could be the year of the sugar tax, as several large nations are considering levies on sweetened food and drinks to battle obesity and fatten government coffers.

A new study released shows details of how the sugar industry worked to downplay emerging science linking sugar and heart disease.

The US-based soft drinks industry’s lobbying arm – whose members include Coca-Cola, Pepsico and Red Bull – strongly disagreed with what it called “discriminatory taxation”.

“It is an unproven idea that has not been shown to improve public health based on global experiences to date,” the Washington-based International Council of Beverages Associations said in a statement.

A comprehensive approach based on the whole diet was needed for a lasting solution to obesity, it said.

The WHO said there was increasing evidence that taxes and subsidies influence purchasing behaviour and could be used to curb consumption of sweet drinks.

In Mexico, a tax rise in 2014 led to a 10 percent price hike and a 6 percent drop in purchases by year-end, the report said.

Read the WHO report here

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