Evidence is Sweet (at least in the UK)

The accumulating evidence in favour of such taxes is becoming hard to counter. BMJ 2019;366:l4617 doi: 10.1136/bmj.l4617 (Published 11 July 2019)

First comes the evidence of the damage caused by excessive intake of sugar and of sugary drinks in particular. To the long and evidence based list itemised by Adam Briggs (doi:10.1136/ bmj.l4616)—weight gain and obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease, and hypertension—we can now add cancer. A French study in over 100 000 people, published this week in The BMJ, finds a positive association between overall risk of cancer and intake of sugary drinks (doi:10.1136/bmj.l2408).

(These drinks are also associated with a range of poor health outcomes, having no nutritional benefit beyond their calories. Randomised controlled trials have shown how they can lead to weight gain in adults8 and children,9 and increasing numbers of studies associate them with diabetes,10 tooth decay,11 heart disease, and hypertension.12 On top of this, it makes sense to focus on soft drinks because the Treasury can easily define them, and the drinks that people would switch to are generally healthier.)

Meanwhile the news has been full of reports that obesity causes more cases of some cancers than smoking does. On the list is colorectal cancer, rates of which are rising in younger adults, writes John Potter (doi:10.1136/bmj.l4280). Increased sugar intake is among the causes, he says

Meanwhile the news has been full of reports that obesity causes more cases of some cancers than smoking does. On the list is colorectal cancer, rates of which are rising in younger adults, writes John Potter (doi:10.1136/bmj.l4280). Increased sugar intake is among the causes, he says

As Adam Briggs writes, the cumulative evidence suggests that a 10% increase in price is broadly associated with a 10% fall in sales. This has been accompanied by a rise in sales of healthy alternatives such as water.

But England’s approach to sugar taxes is different. In a world first, the soft drinks industry levy, in place since the spring, doesn’t directly increase prices for consumers. Instead it levies taxes from importers and manufacturers to encourage them to remove added sugar from their products. Whether they decide to pass this additional cost on to consumers remains to be seen. The levy is being evaluated and must be allowed to run its course. A government green paper due imminently is expected to propose extending this levy to sugary milky drinks if the industry fails to ac

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