Soda Tax Could Save 26,000 Lives Annually, Experts Say

"Soda Tax" could save thousands of lives.
"Soda Tax" could save thousands of lives, and save the government billions in healthcare costs. A can of Coca-Cola is pictured between two bottles of Gatorade in San Diego June 23, 2008. Mike Blake/ Reuters

A penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks like soda, fruit punch, sweet tea, sports drinks and other sweetened beverages can save 26,000 lives every year researchers said in a statement on Monday.

A group of scientists from the University of California, San Francisco and Columbia University also said that the “soda tax” would prevent nearly 100,000 cases of heart disease and 8,000 strokes every year. 

Americans drink 13.8 billion gallons of sweetened beverages every year, an enormous consumption of sugar that is driving the “soaring obesity and diabetes rates” in the nation researchers said.

In 2009, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed reducing the consumption of sweetened beverages as one of its chief obesity prevention strategies, and some states and cities like California and New York City are considering such taxes.

Consumption of these beverages which are high in calories but low in nutritional value is the number source of added sugar and excess calories in American diet, said researchers, and these drinks are often associated with an increased risk of type II diabetes and weight gain.

"You would also prevent 240,000 cases of diabetes per year," said study-author Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an associate professor of medicine and of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF and acting director of the Center for Vulnerable Populations at SFGH.

Bibbins-Domingo and her colleagues estimated that in addition to $13 billion in direct tax revenue, the “soda tax” would save the nation $17 billion annually in healthcare-related expenses due to the decline of obesity-related diseases.

Researchers estimated these benefits by assessing the amount of sodas and sugary beverages Americans drink yearly and estimated how much less likely they would consume these beverages if a penny-per-ounce tax were slapped on sugary drinks. 

Researchers noted that economists have estimated that the “soda tax” would reduce consumption by 10 to 15 percent in over a decade. 

The researchers evaluated how this reduction would decrease the burdens of diabetes, heart disease and associated healthcare costs.

"Our hope is that these types of numbers are useful for policy makers to weigh decisions," Bibbins-Domingo concluded.

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