- The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a new report that suggests sugary beverage taxes could be integral to lowering consumption and reducing obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.
- The report claims that "Fiscal policies that lead to at least a 20% increase in the retail price of sugary drinks would result in proportional reductions in consumption of such products."
- WHO believes that reducing sugary beverage consumption also limits consumers' intake of free sugars. Too much sugar, they say, can lead to several health complications.
Since early 2015, WHO has advocated for a reduction in sugar intake. However, with this new policy recommendation, the global organization is giving its tacit approval to an issue that has been controversial in the United States.
It is unclear whether WHO's message will make a difference to voters deciding whether to approve this kind of tax. Philadelphia focused on financial incentives rather than strictly public health benefits to get its soda tax approved. Other cities with these taxes on the ballot could a similar direction if they see that this message better resonates with and motivates consumers.
Other municipalities may consider utilizing the WHO's message and earmarking the tax revenue for initiatives to improve health systems and promote healthier diets and physical activity levels.
Manufacturers and industry groups have long funded nutrition-related research, some of which suggests that sugary beverages aren't necessarily the culprit in the increase in obesity and diabetes. But consumers and public health experts often doubt the reliability of these studies, suggesting they are biased in favor of the entities that funded them.
Instead, manufacturers may want to turn this strategy on its head by using similar tactics to combat soda taxes. They may decide to tie sugary beverage consumption to revenue for health-related initiatives, such as donating a portion of profits to a nutrition-related nonprofit. Or manufacturers can lobby against the fiscal messaging and highlight inconsistencies in governments' track record of spending dedicated funds.