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Pan American Health Organization: Tax sugary drinks to reduce consumption and improve health, revenue

Posted: Thursday, May 13, 2021. 1:12 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is suggesting that taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks like Coca-Cola would cut consumption by more than a third as consumers try healthier alternatives.

It’s a move for health according to PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne: “Sugary beverages greatly contribute to overweight and obesity, and these conditions are known to cause heart disease, diabetes, and other serious non-communicable diseases. Reducing consumption of these beverages improves health, and excise taxation is an effective tool to achieve this.”

And scientific evidence indicates that people who are overweight or obese or suffer from diabetes and heart disease are more likely to develop severe cases of COVID-19.

The Americas has the highest rates of overweight and obese persons: 64 percent of men and 61 percent of women.

Dr. Anselm Hennis, Director of PAHO’s Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, describes increased excise taxes as a triple win: more revenue, reduced long-term health costs, and productivity losses due to illnesses related to overweight and obesity and more money to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, finance economic recovery plans, and support countries as they advance to universal health coverage.

More than 73 countries, including 21 members of PAHO and seven states in the United States have increased excise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages; the PAHO report notes that many taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages in the Americas have been designed with fiscal goals in mind and do not consider the important role they can play in the protection of health.

“As more governments adopt and improve taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, this is expected to reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases,” Dr. Hennis said.

Belize last increased taxes on sugary drinks in 2017 as part of that year’s Budget as a part of needed revenue measures.

The report can be found here.


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