Yet another health study this time commissioned by a dream team of Canada’s disease fighters is recommending a tax on sugar drinks, an excise researchers are predicting that in 25 years will reduce obesity rates, curb diabetes and cut cancer – in turn saving 13,000 lives and perhaps $12 billion in health care costs.
The government’s cut, if it imposes a 20 percent tax sooner than later, is an estimated $44 billion.
Sarah Khatri, a Nutrition Consultant in Montreal, thinks the tax would be a good start but definitely more has to be done. “All we do is conduct studies and discuss theories but we don’t act and we need to act,” she said. “I make the effort to feed my kids healthy foods and to keep healthy options in the house,” she said. “But my kids are bombarded with outside influences and they crave candy, junk foods and sugary drinks that other kids are consuming. It has gotten to the point where they will do anything to sneak some of these foods behind my back.”
Khatri calls for a collective stand leading to real change. “We must educate children and adults to take care of their bodies and eat well. Physical activity is tremendously beneficial but nutrition is arguably more important.”
While examples are cited of successful implementation of sugary drink taxing –Mexico, Norway, Chili – there is no simple relationship between patterns of consumption and price, so targeting a specific food based on complex consumer purchasing patterns is a hit and miss. Brand-loyalists will buy in bulk, shop for sales or shop somewhere else – or pay for other products containing sugar.
This was actually a point made in the study. Pop sales in Canada decreased 27 percent over the 12-year period, but energy-drink sales rose a stunning 638 percent, while sales of sweetened coffee (coffee drinks with sugar added before purchase) jumped an astonishing 579 percent. The study didn’t come outright and say taxing was the only solution. An overall strategy to tapping out obesity includes restricting marketing to kids, improving food and menu labeling, providing better access to affordable healthy foods and water, increasing food literacy and preparation skills, as well as public education.
Sugar consumption is linked to many health issues. In Canada, 3.5 million people live with Type II diabetes and 5.3 million adults struggle with obesity and Cancer continues to remain the leading cause of death, all of these linked to sugar.
The study was commissioned by The Canadian Cancer Society, Childhood Obesity Foundation, Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada, Diabetes Canada and Heart Stroke Foundation commissioned the study 12 years ago.