- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2019

Taxing sweetened drinks could drastically decrease obesity rates and Type 2 diabetes cases, saving nearly $2 billion in healthcare costs, Harvard researchers are claiming in a new study.

Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health estimates the average adult would lose 0.7 pounds, slash the adult obesity rates of 630,000 additional Americans and knock 11,000 additional people off of Type 2 diabetes cases.

The study predicts Americans would save $1.8 billion in healthcare costs.

“Our calculations suggest that this idea offers valuable low-hanging fruit for improving public health,” they wrote, according to The Daily Mail.

Berkeley, California became the first city to implement a sweetened drink tax in March 2015, paying a penny-per-ounce.

While sales rose by 6.9% in the surrounding areas, Berkley saw sugary drink sales fall 9.6% and water sales increase by 15.6%.

A similar 1.5-cent-per-ounce soda tax enacted in Philadelphia in 2017 resulted in a 38% net drop in soda sales, when accounting for the increase of sales in neighboring jurisdictions, according to a University of Pennsylvania study, USA Today reported in May.

Researchers conducting the Harvard study recommend a tax which would charge 0.5 cents per gram of sugar, as a penny-per-ounce system might not properly reflect the amount of sugar inside the container.

“This tax structure gives consumers no incentive to substitute from high-sugar to low-sugar sugar-sweetened beverages, even though the latter are less harmful,” the said. “The harm from sugary drinks comes from the sugar, and [sugary drinks] vary substantially in sugar per unit volume. A basic economic principle is that…taxes should be proportional to the harm caused.”


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