The tax on sugary drinks, due to come into effect in 2018, is likely to reduce tooth decay, obesity and diabetes no matter how the industry responds to the move, a major study published in Lancet Public Health has found. While industry groups have criticised the plan, UK researchers have concluded the tax will have significant health benefits, especially among children.
The researchers modelled three ways the soft drinks industry may respond to the levy: reducing sugar in drinks; passing some of the levy onto consumers by raising prices; and, encouraging people to switch to lower sugar drinks.
They found that an industry response focused on reducing sugar content is likely to have the greatest impact on health, with additional benefits if the industry successfully implements either or both of the other options.
The authors estimate that a reduction of 30% in the sugar content of all high-sugar drinks and a 15% reduction in mid-sugar drinks could result in 269,000 fewer teeth suffering from decay annually, along with other benefits including a reduction in obesity.
Passing on half the cost of the levy to consumers in higher prices for high- and mid-sugar drinks of up to 20 per cent was estimated to result in 149,000 fewer decaying teeth a year.
Lead author of the study, Dr Adam Briggs of the University of Oxford, said the research: “suggests that all of the most likely industry responses to the tax have the potential to improve health by reducing rates of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay”.