Monday September 23, 2019

Taxes on soft drinks, alcohol most beneficial to poor: Lancet

The study helps counter fears that such taxes will necessarily disproportionately harm the poor

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What Causes Alcohol Addiction?
What Causes Alcohol Addiction? (IANS)

Taxes on unhealthy products like soft drinks, alcohol and tobacco, have the potential to produce major health gains among the poorest in society who are disproportionately affected by diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, researchers suggest.

The study helps counter fears that such taxes will necessarily disproportionately harm the poor. In a series of five papers published in the The Lancet, the researchers argued that taxes are a powerful response to rising rates of chronic diseases and an inescapable solution to tackling non-communicable diseases (NCDs) — stroke, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease and cancer.

Cold drinks can cause tooth decay, obesity, etc. Wikimedia Commons
Cold drinks’ price rise will benefit poor too. Wikimedia Commons

NCDs are responsible for 38 million deaths each year, 16 million of these are among people aged under 70 and “are a major cause and consequence of poverty worldwide”.

“Responding to this challenge means big investments to improve health care systems worldwide, but there are immediate and effective tools at our disposal,” said Rachel Nugent from the RTI International in the US.

“Taxes on unhealthy products can produce major health gains, and the evidence shows these can be implemented fairly, without disproportionately harming the poorest in society,” she added.

The findings showed that high income households generally consume more, and spend more, on alcohol, soft drinks and snacks, compared to low income households, while patterns for tobacco are less consistent. In India, wealthier households spent seven times more on alcohol and three times more on soft drinks and snacks compared to poorer households.

Also Read: 12 things you must know about cold drinks in India

Increased taxes on unhealthy products will therefore affect a larger number of high-income households than low-income households, meaning that the revenues generated by taxes will come disproportionately from high income households. The analysis is based on data from 13 countries – Chile, Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua, Albania, Poland, Turkey, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Niger, Nigeria, India and Timor-Leste.

The study helps counter fears that such taxes will necessarily disproportionately harm the poor. “The evidence suggests that concerns about higher taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and soft drinks harming the poor are overstated. Price policies such as taxes will be a key part of the response to rising rates of non-communicable diseases,” Nugent added.

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Quit Soft Drinks For A Longer Life: Researchers

Greater consumption of sugar-sweetened and artificially-sweetened soft drinks is linked to a higher incidence of all-cause mortality

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soft drink, life, health
The World Health Organization recommends countries use tax policy to increase the price of sugary drinks as a way to fight obesity and diabetes. Wikimedia Commons

Greater consumption of sugar-sweetened and artificially-sweetened soft drinks is linked to a higher incidence of all-cause mortality, researchers have warned.

“We found that higher soft drink intake was associated with a greater risk of death from any cause regardless of whether sugar-sweetened or artificially-sweetened drinks were consumed,” said study senior author Neil Murphy from International Agency for Research on Cancer in France.

soft drink, Life, Health
The “soft drinks” were defined as caffeinated colas, caffeine-free colas and other carbonated beverages (such as diet ginger ale). Pixabay

“Our results for sugar-sweetened soft drinks provide further support to limit consumption and to replace them with healthier beverages, preferably water,” Murphy said.

For the study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, nearly 452,000 men and women from 10 European countries participated.

The study found that drinking two or more glasses per day — compared with less than one glass per month — of soft drinks, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and artificially-sweetened soft drinks was associated with higher risk of death from all causes during an average follow-up of 16 years in which 41,693 deaths occurred.

According to the study, 43 per cent died from cancers, 21.8 per cent from circulatory diseases and 2.9 per cent from digestive diseases.

The findings support public health initiatives to limit soft drink consumption. (IANS)