We’re fat, slow and addicted to the sweet stuff — could a tax on pop help cure Canadian sugar junkies?
The Senate seems to think so, according to its report on national obesity released Tuesday. In it, the upper chamber proposed a tax on sugary and artificially sweetened beverages. Health advocates say it could help save thousands of lives and billions of health-care dollars, while beverage-industry lobbyists and skeptics argue the tax would hurt businesses and do little to obesity rates.
The Senate isn’t the first to suggest a soda tax — New York state and Chicago both tried and failed to introduce the tax, while France and Mexico have made a tax on pop part of their national health strategies.
Here’s a look at five places around the world that have implemented a tax on soft drinks.
In 2014, Mexico introduced an 8-cent-per-litre tax on sugary drinks.
According to a study conducted by Mexico’s national institute for public health and researchers at the University of North Carolina, that 10-per-cent price increase was enough to get some people to stop buying sweetened drinks.
The research, which was published in The BMJ in January, looked at beverage purchases in 2014, the first year that the tax was in affect. Over the course of the year, purchases of taxed beverages declined by an average of six per cent, with fewer people buying taxed beverages as the year went on.
While other cities have struggled to pass soda taxes, residents of Berkeley overwhelmingly voted in favour of a 45-cent-per-litre tax on soda distributors.
But the effect may have fizzled. A study conducted by researchers at Cornell University and the University of Iowa found that prices for beverages didn’t go up for customers.
“The point of the tax was to make sugar-sweetened beverages more expensive so consumers would buy, and drink, less of them,” Cornell economist John Cawley, one of the authors of the study, said in a press release.
Cawley hypothesized that store owners ate the tax because they had to keep prices competitive with neighbouring cities.
There’s no escaping a soda tax on St. Helena. The South Atlantic island announced a $1.40-per-litre excise duty on sugary carbonated beverages in its 2014 budget.
Before the tax, St. Helena imported 300,000 litres of sugary pops a year, or about 200 cans per person, according to the financial secretary’s budget speech.
Although no studies have been conducted evaluating the policy’s effectiveness, it sparked a debate in the U.K. about the need for a similar tax.
A study published in The BMJ estimated that a 20-per-cent tax on soda would decrease obesity by 1.3 per cent in the United Kingdom.
Norway introduced a tax on all sugary processed foods, including a 44-cent-per-litre tax on sugary beverages.
Between 2001 and 2008, children’s consumption of lemonade and soft drinks declined significantly in Norway, according to a 2012 paper published in the journal, Public Health and Nutrition.
Norwegian elementary children reduced their soda consumption from 2.7 times a week to 1.6 times a week, after the tax, according to the study.
Brie, red wine and croissants are de rigueur in Paris, but just say “non” to soda.
France introduced a 4-cent-per-litre tax hike on sugary drinks in 2012, amid cries that fast food and Americanized diets were wreaking havoc on citizens’ waistlines.
In just six months, consumers saw soda increase by 5 cents per litre, according to a study by the Banque de France. That meant that the tax was effectively increasing the cost of soda for consumers.
But the tax was slightly less effective at increasing the cost of fruit drinks or flavoured waters, according to the study.