Agree or Disagree: Governments Should Tax Sugary Drinks MultiPanel Poll

Obesity is on the rise worldwide. The WHO has warned that obesity will be "one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century." France, Mexico and the UK all recently announced national sugary drink taxes to discourage consumption. Supporters argue that revenue collected can pay for related health needs: improving diet, increasing physical activity, obesity prevention, nutrition education, and so on. Opponents argue that the public health savings do not justify the costs, and that the taxes are inefficient and regressive. Agree or disagree: national and/or local governments facing rapidly rising obesity rates should levy a pigovian tax on sugar sweetened beverages (carbonated sodas, sports drinks, sweetened tea, fruit-flavored drinks) to discourage unhealthy diets and/or raise funds for public health spending.

Date Published: July 25, 2016

Last Updated: Aug. 05, 2016

Latest Results
27%
Disagree
0%
No Opinion
73%
Agree
Historical Results
Panelist Response

Chafik Hdider, PhD
National Institute of Agronomic Research, Tunisia

11Agree - Very Confident

David Thurnham, PhD
University of Ulster

11Agree - Very Confident

William B. Grant, PhD
Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center

11Agree - Very Confident

Sugar from drinks or other sources have been found in numerous studies to be an important, if not the most important, cause of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus. and an important cause of clogged arteries. Sugar production is subsidized by the U.S. government. Mexico's tax on sugary drinks shows that this tax does reduce their consumption.

Sean F. O'Keefe, PhD
Virginia Tech

71Disagree - Very Confident

Gosh, what a stupid idea. Bring back gym to all schools and promote sports for kids.

David Katz, MD
Yale University

10Agree - Very Confident

I reviewed my colleague, Marion Nestle's book, 'Soda Politics' for the journal Nature. I learned it takes up to 600 liters of water to produce one drinkable liter of Soda in its plastic bottle. In a world getting ever thirstier, NONE OF US can afford that. Imagine dumping 500 liters of water on the ground at your feet each time you drank a Coke? In effect, that's what we are doing. And yes, soda contributes to obesity and diabetes, too. Time to do whatever it takes to reduce consumption.

Duane Mellor, PhD
University of Canberra

21Agree - Somewhat Confident

This can be part of a multi-pronged approach to tackle poor health linked to dietary factors. It must not however be seen as a magic bullet, which politicians wanting to be seen as taking action may introduce such taxes and then take little further action. If evidence is considered the impact of sugar taxes compared to reformulation is modest. It is key our food supply is reshaped, however politically and in the media this gets far less attention. The use of tax receipts needs consideration too

Michael J. Meurer, PhD
Boston University

31Agree - Not Confident

Dane Rowlands, PhD
Carleton University

21Agree - Somewhat Confident

I like the idea in principle, but I am a bit wary of the administrative costs and generally I prefer simpler tax systems that don't do a lot of good-specific targeting. I am also concerned about the incentives to use other harmful sugar substitutes. It will be useful to see the empirical evidence of how current initiatives are working.

William E. Rees, PhD
University of British Columbia

31Agree - Not Confident

Increased costs/prices can influence behaviour so a substantial tax on sugary drinks (empty calories) may well reduce consumption. What is not clear from the information provided is the extent to which sugary drinks contribute to obesity. Is this the most effective way to address the problem? Without an answer to this question, I would find it difficult to support the tax. Even if the answer is affirmative, I would need to be assured that the revenues would be directed to obesity damage control.

Andrea Giusto, PhD
Dalhousie University

31Agree - Not Confident

Michael Fritsch, PhD
Friedrich Schiller University Jena

61Disagree - Somewhat Confident

Martin Chalkley, PhD
University of York

61Disagree - Somewhat Confident

There are a myriad of issues affecting health that have at their core behaviour. Whilst financial incentives (taxes) are one mechanism for affecting change they are often quite weak which means substantial taxes are required. Couple that with the fact that poor health behaviours negatively correlate with income and you have a recipe for regressive taxation. Furthermore if we start doing this for carbonated drinks where do we stop? We end up with a messy inefficient piecemeal tax system.

Andreas Löschel, PhD
University of Münster

21Agree - Somewhat Confident

Paul H. Rubin, PhD
Emory University

71Disagree - Very Confident

There is no evidence that these taxes reduce caloric intake; people just substitute for sugar drinks. A tax on these drinks would be an inefficient and regressive way to finance public health expenditures.

Martin Gaynor, PhD
Carnegie Mellon University

21Agree - Somewhat Confident

 

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