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Trump administration blocks WHO from calling for sugar taxes

WASHINGTON EXAMINER: In a new report, the World Health Organization fails to endorse higher taxes on sugar in order to fight noncommunicable diseases. For the last two years, the U.N. body has been calling for even higher sugar taxes, which would lead to reduced consumption and therefore better overall public health. However, the WHO advocates are […]

France’s New Sugar Tax Is Bitterly Ironic

FEE: In yet another move to crack down on fun public health hazards, the French government reached an agreement with the parliament for a new tax on sugary drinks. How long are people going to continue to accept the modern Nanny State?

Taxing sugary drinks unlikely to cut Newfoundland and Labrador obesity rates

Newfoundland is creeping toward a fiscal cliff.

The province’s debt load is more than $12 billion, which is approximately $23,000 per resident. COVID-19 has obviously worsened that troubling trend, with this year’s budget deficit expected to reach $826 million.

Just this week legislators proposed a handful of tax hikes to help cover the gap, ranging from increasing personal income tax rates for the wealthier brackets, increasing taxes on cigarettes, and the outright silly concept of a “Pepsi tax.”

In one year’s time, the province will implement a tax on sugary drinks at a rate of 20 cents per litre, generating an estimated almost $9 million per year in revenue.

Finance Minister Siobhan Coady justified the tax, beyond the need for revenue, stating that the tax will “position Newfoundland and Labrador as a leader in Canada and will help avoid future demands on the health-care system.”

When described like that, a Pepsi tax sounds harmonious. Who doesn’t want to curb obesity and generate revenue?

Unfortunately for supporters of the tax, the evidence isn’t really there.

In one year’s time, the province will implement a tax on sugary drinks at a rate of 20 cents per litre, generating an estimated nearly $9 million per year in revenue.

Unfortunately for supporters of the tax, the evidence isn’t really there. In one year’s time, the province will implement a tax on sugary drinks at a rate of 20 cents per litre, generating an estimated nearly $9 million per year in revenue.

Regressive taxes

Consumption taxes like this are often highly regressive, meaning that low-income residents bear most of the burden, and are ultimately ineffective in achieving their public health goals.

Looking to Mexico provides a good case study on the efficacy of soft drink taxes. With one of the highest obesity rates in the world, Mexico enacted a soft drink tax, increasing prices by nearly 13 per cent, with the goal of reducing caloric intake. A time-series analysis of the impact of the tax showed that it reduced consumption of these drinks by only 3.8 per cent, which represents less than seven calories per day. Estimates from Canada also show the same. When PEI’s Green Party proposed a soft drink tax of 20 per cent per litre it was only estimated to reduce caloric intake from soft drinks by two per cent, which is approximately 2.5 calories per day.

While these taxes do in fact reduce consumption to some degree, the reductions are so small that they have virtually no impact on obesity rates. To make matters worse, taxes like this aren’t just ineffective in combating obesity, they are heavily regressive. Looking again at the data from Mexico, the tax they implemented was largely paid for by those with a low socioeconomic status.

In fact, a majority of the revenue, upwards of 63 per cent, was generated from families at, or below, the poverty line. If we take the province’s estimation of $9 million a year in revenue, it is reasonable to assume that $5.67 million of that revenue will be coming from the pockets of low-income Newfoundlanders.

In other jurisdictions south of the border, like Cook County Illinois, no soda tax has avoided the uncomfortable reality of being incredibly regressive, which is partly why they eventually abandoned the tax altogether.

Doubtful benefits

Newfoundlanders need to ask themselves, is it worth implementing a heavily regressive tax on low-income families to move the needle on obesity by a few calories a day? I’d argue that the negatives of the tax far outweigh the benefits, and that’s before business impacts enter the equation. This also happens to be the same conclusion found in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, in a report to the Ministry of Health, stated that “We have yet to see any clear evidence that imposing a sugar tax would meet a comprehensive cost-benefit test.”

While both budget shortfalls and obesity are serious problems, a “Pepsi tax” isn’t a serious solution.

Originally published here.

Taxing Sugar and Salt Hurts the People it Aims to Help

By Thomas Walker Following the introduction by the British government of a tax on sugary carbonated drinks in April 2018, intended to improve public health and combat obesity in children, some campaigners have started calling for similar taxes on a wider range of products. NHS Chief Medical Officer Prof. Dame Sally Davies, described by the […]

To tax or not to tax: The Great Sugar Debate

GLOBAL NEWS: LISTEN: North American Affairs Manager of the Consumer Choice Center and sugar tax opponent David Clement.

To Tackle Smoking, South Africa Should Embrace, Not Tax, Vaping

In December 2021, the National Treasury published a proposal to tax electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems in South Africa. The Treasury points to the increased consumption of these products among youth worldwide and their potential to undermine tobacco control efforts. Based on the Treasury’s calculations, the total excise duty would range from R 33.30 to R 346.00, dependent on volume and nicotine strength.

The proposal mirrors anti-vaping efforts spearheaded by the World Health Organisation and lacks understanding of harm reduction. The vaping tax would deprive South African smokers of the opportunity to quit, and drive current vapers back to combustible tobacco consumption.

A snap survey conducted by the Vaping Saved My Life (VSML) consumer group in South Africa interviewed 1480 vapers in the country, and the results are staggering. 26.6 per cent of vapers would go back to smoking, and another 26.2 per cent would get their e-liquids from informal sources.

By introducing the tax, the South African government will further extend the list of its unsuccessful anti-smoking policies. To curb smoking, the South African government has been using conventional tobacco control measures such as advertising restrictions, smoke-free areas, and taxes. In 2020, a temporary ban on the sales of cigarettes was introduced. These restrictions rest on the dangerous assumption that complete abstinence is possible and that it can be achieved by drastically reducing access to tobacco products.

Such an approach has not proven to be effective–neither in South Africa, nor anywhere else in the world. A 2021 Tax Justice SA (TJSA) report found that 2 out of 3 cigarettes sold in South Africa are illicit. In Ireland and the UK, where the price of cigarettes is also very high, the effects are the same. These unintended consequences of tobacco control are traceable across the board, and are predictable.

A more sensible solution would be to abandon the pursuit of complete abstinence and embrace harm reduction. As Dr Tyndall, Professor UBC School of Population & Public Health, explains, “starting with abstinence is like asking a new diabetic to quit sugar or a severe asthmatic to start running marathons or a depressed person to just be happy.”

Harm reduction is, first and foremost, humane as it recognises that addiction is complex, and it is almost impossible to quit at the whim of the government. For that reason, vaping was welcomed by smokers as a safer alternative. The diversity of vape flavours allows vapers to experiment and move away from smoking entirely. Flavoured vaping devices were found to be associated with an 230% increase in the odds of adult smoking cessation.

The youth vaping pandemic is often used as a means to undermine vaping. But, in fact, between 2019 and 2021, the use of electronic cigarettes among US teens dropped by more than 50 percent from 27.5% to 11.3%.

Commenting on the effects of the proposed vaping tax, Kurt Yeo, co-founder of the VSML, said: “VSML believes implementing any tax on safer alternatives will have devastating, yet predictable consequences to existing users of ENDs products and smokers wishing to quit.”

Michael Landl, director of the World Vaper Alliance, a global vapers’ movement, added that “the tax on vaping products will harm public health in South Africa. People who want to stay away from cigarettes or switch should not be abused as a source of funding for the state’s budget crisis.”

If the South African government really wants to help reduce the smoking rates, it should abstain from taxing vaping products, or keep the tax rate as low as possible. Smokers, especially those who smoke heavily, should be encouraged to switch to safer alternatives, and the ineffective and dangerous abstinence WHO-inspired ideology should be abandoned. Vaping saves lives, and let’s hope the South African government learns that lesson before it’s too late.

Originally published here

End The War On Sugar: Zuckersteuern

Der Vorwurf, dass Zucker der grösste Treiber von Volkskrankheiten wie Übergewicht und Diabetes ist, passt nicht zu der Beobachtung, dass in den meisten entwickelten Ländern die tägliche Kalorienaufnahme stetig sinkt. Wie in einem vorherigen Beitrag gezeigt, ist Übergewicht

ein multifaktorielles Problem

Nichtsdestotrotz gibt es in der Welt und Europa viele Befürworter der Zuckersteuer. So empfiehlt auch die Weltgesundheitsorganisation (WHO) die Besteuerung von zuckerhaltigen Getränken. Dieses negative Bild von Zucker hat auch Auswirkungen auf die Politik. Es gibt mehrere Länder, die eine Form von Zuckersteuern eingeführt haben, beispielsweise Mexiko, Großbritannien, Irland oder auch kürzlich Polen. 

Auch in der Bundesrepublik gibt es in der Politik Befürworter der Zuckersteuer. So hat z.B. die SPD Politikerin Sabine Dittmar mehrmals eine Zuckersteuer gefordert. Die SPD-Gesundheitspolitikerin beteuerte in der Ärzte Zeitung, dass eine Zuckersteuer auf gezuckerte Getränke ein sinnvolles Instrument sei. 

Aber wie effektiv ist dieses Instrument tatsächlich? Kann durch eine Zuckersteuer der Zuckerkonsum tatsächlich reduziert werden? Wie sieht es mit dem Problem des Übergewichts aus: Bewirkt eine Zuckersteuer den Rückgang der Übergewichtsrate? Oder ist die Zuckersteuer nur ein weiteres Instrument für Staatseinnahmen? 

Die generelle Problematik einer Zuckersteuer ist die gleiche wie bei jeder anderen Verbrauchssteuer: Sie ist regressiv, d.h. belastet die ärmeren Teile der Bevölkerung stärker. Das konnte u.a. eine Untersuchung in den USA zeigen

Darüber hinaus ist es auch unklar wie stark der Abschreckeffekt wirkt: So konnte eine Umfrage von 2018 in Großbritannien zeigen, dass 62% der Verbraucher ihr Kaufverhalten nicht geändert haben. Eine Analyse hat darüber hinaus auch gezeigt, dass Preissteigerungen bei gesüßten Getränken dazu führen, dass Verbraucher auf andere Produkte umsteigen, wie beispielsweise Alkohol

Die Erfahrungen in verschiedenen Staaten bestätigen, dass die Zuckersteuer nur eine geringe Auswirkung auf das Konsumverhalten der Verbraucher hat. So konnte man in Mexiko zwar durchaus bestimmte Effekte beobachten. Eine Studie konnte beispielsweise aufzeigen, dass die Konsumption von zuckerhaltigen getränken zurückgegangen ist. Das resultierte lediglich in einer Reduktion an 18 KCal pro Tag. Das ist in etwas so viel, wie in einer Tomate. Eine Kalorienreduktion im zweistelligen Bereich hat keine signifikante Auswirkung auf die Übergewichtsrate. Selbst eine größere Reduktion von Kalorien, wie man sie beispielsweise in UK über die Jahre beobachten konnte (siehe Teil I) verspricht keinen Erfolg, wenn andere Faktoren nicht stimmen. 

Wie sind die Erfahrungen mit der Zuckersteuer im Vereinigten Königreich? Im Gegensatz zu den meisten anderen Zuckersteuern zielt die britische Steuer darauf ab die Hersteller dazu zu bringen die Rezeptur ihrer Produkte zu ändern. Die Steuer wurde 2016 angekündigt und 2018 eingeführt. Ein Bericht von Public Health England zeigt, dass bei den Herstellern tatsächlich eine Reaktion stattgefunden hat. So sei der Zuckergehalt von den besteuerten Getränken zwischen 2015 und 2018 um 28,8% gesunken. Das hört sich zunächst nach einem großen Erfolg an. Der durchschnittliche Brite trank im Jahre 2015 etwa 106 Liter von Softdrinks. Das entspricht in etwa 300 ml am Tag. Wenn wir annehmen, dass es sich bei den Softdrinks um Coca-Cola und andere vergleichbare Produkte handelt, so ergibt sich daraus eine Reduktion von etwa 36 KCal. Die Untersuchung zeigt allerdings auch, dass die Menge an Verkauf von

anderen Produkten mit einem hohen Zuckergehalt gestiegen ist. 

Daraus kann man schließen, dass die Verbraucher ganz einfach auf andere Produkte umgestiegen sind. 

Die Beispiele zeigen, dass die Steuern durchaus kleine Effekte bringen. Diese Effekte haben aber nur geringe Auswirkungen auf die Probleme des Übergewichts. Einerseits ist die Reduktion von Kalorien, die die Bevölkerung pro Kopf aus Zucker zu sich nimmt viel zu klein um einen wirklichen Hebel zu haben. Andererseits entsteht in der öffentlichen Meinung auch das falsche Bild, dass die Reduktion von Zucker automatisch zu einem gesünderen Lebensstil und Fettverbrennung führe. Dies ist nicht der Fall – andere Faktoren, wie Sport und Bewegung, Kalorien aus anderen Lebensmitteln (z.B. fettiges Fleisch) können bei einem reduzierten Zuckergebrauch dennoch zu einem Kalorienüberschuss führen. 

So argumentiert auch eine Gruppe von Wissenschaftlern von der Universität Glasgow, dass eine zu starke Fokussierung der öffentlichen Debatte auf Zucker die Verbraucher zu einem Mißverständnis der Problematik führen könnte. Laut ihrer Untersuchung korreliere Übergewicht hauptsächlich damit, ob eine Person große Kalorienmengen und Fett zu sich nimmt. Das stimmt auch mit der Theorie der Gewichtszunahme überein, die im ersten Artikel grob dargestellt wurde. 

Abschließend lässt sich sagen, dass die Besteuerung von Zucker auf mehreren Ebenen sinnlos ist. Einerseits ist es falsch Zucker als den Hauptgrund für Übergewicht und Diabetes anzusehen. Andererseits bringen diese Steuern zwar durchaus Ergebnisse, diese sind aber nicht signifikant, wenn es um die Reduktion von Übergewicht innerhalb der Bevölkerung geht, was eine logische Folge der ersten Aussage ist. 

Probleme wie Übergewicht, oder Diabetes lassen sich nicht mit der Besteuerung von bestimmten Lebensmitteln lösen. Vielmehr muss mehr Zeit in die evidenzbasierte Aufklärung investiert werden. Der wirklich große Hebel liegt in der Erhöhung der täglichen Verbrennungswerte und nicht in der Dämonisierung einer kleinen Gruppe an Lebensmitteln.

Should Saskatchewan adopt a tax on soft drinks?

In case you missed it, a tax on sugary drinks is coming to Atlantic Canada, but could it also work in Saskatchewan?

Earlier this week, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced it was introducing a tax of 20 cents a litre on soft drink products in September 2022, a move that could bring in roughly $9 million a year in revenue to the province.

The concept of a soft drink tax is nothing new as several countries have either debated the idea or implemented a sugar tax or sweetened beverage tax (SBT), including the U.K., South Africa and Mexico.

Several U.S. states or cities have also introduced a levy on sugary drinks. However, some areas like Cook County, Ill. have repealed their taxes.

Read the full article here

Sugar is the new tobacco. Here’s what we should do about it!

Whichever way you look at it, Britain is facing an obesity crisis. A study into long-term public health in England and Scotland published earlier this month reached the startling conclusion that obesity is causing more deaths than smoking, with nearly two thirds of British adults now overweight.

This past year has brought rising obesity levels into sharp focus because of the effect that being overweight seems to have on the fatality of Covid-19. According to research from the World Obesity Federation, nine out of ten deaths from coronavirus occurred in countries with high obesity levels, which might go some way towards explaining why the UK has seen a disproportionately high death toll.

This issue has not passed the Government by. Led by a man who was elected on a platform of halting ‘the continuing creep of the nanny state’, this Conservative Government has unveiled a raft of policies designed to ease the pressure on Britain’s weighing scales, including the sugar tax, a ‘junk food’ advertising ban and even a fund – with a £100m price tag – which is apparently designed to bribe people into losing weight.

The problems with these policies are too numerous to count. Sin taxes hit the poor harder than anyone else, making the weekly shopping trip more expensive for families who are already struggling. The junk food ad ban is set to remove around 1.7 calories, or half a Smartie’s worth of energy intake, from children’s diets per day – according to the Government’s analysis of its own policy. And the state-funded version of Slimming World sounds like something that comes out of a pop-up book of policies. Yes, and ho!

It is unclear why Boris Johnson, who was able to lose weight after his brush with Covid without any of these new Government-sponsored initiatives in place, is now so firmly of the belief that the Government must crack down on unhealthy eating if we are to have any hope of slowing down the increase in obesity rates – especially when the private sector is doing most of the hard work voluntarily.

Tesco, for instance, recently bowed to external pressure by committing itself to increasing its sales of healthy foods to 65% of total sales by 2025. Time and time again, when there is an issue people care about, companies go out of their way to do their bit – even at the expense of their bottom line. We saw the same thing happen when the world woke up to the reality of climate change, with businesses eagerly signing up to costly net-zero plans.

Positive moves like this from incumbent giants are complemented by the wealth of innovation taking place around obesity. Semaglutide, a diabetes drug, was recently found to be extraordinarily effective in helping people lose weight. Even something as innocuous as sugar-free chewing gum might just represent part of the solution. Datasuggests that the mere act of idle chewing suppresses the appetite, resulting in a 10% reduction in the consumption of sweet and salty snacks.

Crucially, these remarkable steps towards a less obese Britain can take place at no cost to the taxpayer, free of the grip of Whitehall bureaucracy and at an astonishing pace. We have just lived through a year in which the Government pumped billions into a near-useless ‘test and trace’ system and repeatedly failed to clarify whether or not drinking coffee on a park bench is illegal. If there is one incontrovertible lesson we can surely take from that, it is that we should not leave such important tasks to the state.

Sugar is the new tobacco, so we need to be smart in how we tackle it. Sporadic, ill-thought-out Government interventions like banning Marmite adverts are not the answer. Private-sector innovation, not centralised policy, is Britain’s best hope of slimming down.

Originally published here

A soda tax is a bad idea, and we can prove it

Opinion: A sugary drink tax shouldn’t be dismissed just because it fails to achieve its goals. It is also heavily regressive.

By David Clement

Canada has an obesity problem, both for adults, and for children. When you look at the numbers, they immediately jump off the page. Since 1978, the obesity rate for Canadians has more than doubled. In 1978, the number of adults who were considered obese was 14 per cent. In 2014, that figure was 28 per cent. General forecasts on this trend state that the number of adults who are obese could rise to 34 per cent by 2025. Rates of obesity this high create a myriad of negative health outcomes, and cost the health-care system billions of dollars annually.

There have been a variety of policies proposed to help curb obesity. Most recently was the call for a national soft drink tax by Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin. Specifically, Dabrusin is calling for a 20-per-cent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The thought process here is simple: if you excessively tax a product, it will end up discouraging the purchase of that product, which will lead to better health outcomes and lower expenditures on obesity-related illnesses. The problem with this new tax proposal is that these sin taxes almost always fail to achieve their desired outcome, and have the negative externality of being heavily regressive against the poor.

Sin taxes almost always fail to achieve their desired outcome 

Dabrusin’s goal of healthier outcomes is a noble one, but excessively taxing sugary drinks isn’t a serious solution. We know from other jurisdictions that additional taxes on sugary drinks rarely achieve their goal of reducing caloric intake in any meaningful way. For example, Mexico, a country with an obesity rate near 70 per cent, enacted a sugary drink tax with the goal of reducing caloric intake, thus producing better health outcomes. An analysis of the impact of the tax showed that it reduced consumption of these drinks by only 3.8 per cent, which represents less than seven calories per day. A reduction of this size can hardly be considered a success.

Domestically, we have seen several proposals for sugary drink taxes. In the past provincial election in New Brunswick, Green Party Leader David Coon proposed that the province enact a sugary drink tax of 20 cents per litre. The proposed tax would have added taxes on all pop, most juices, all carbonated water, all non-carbonated flavoured water, most teas, drinkable yogurts and flavoured milk. The major issue with this provincial version of what Dabrusin is proposing is that the designers of the tax scheme openly admitted that it was unlikely to make any significant impact on caloric intake. According to the Green Party’s own submission, the 20-per-cent tax was at best going to reduce overall sugary drink intake by two per cent a year.

In the past provincial election in New Brunswick, the Green Party proposed a sugary drink tax of 20 cents per litre. Getty Images/iStockphoto

At the most, the New Brunswick tax would reduce caloric intake for the average resident by a measly 2.5 calories per day. This estimate was created by using full-calorie soft drinks as a reference point, meaning that the total caloric reduction could actually be much less than 2.5 calories per day given that consumers often consume other sugar-sweetened beverages with fewer total calories than full-calorie soft drinks. It is safe to say that reducing caloric intake by, at most, 2.5 calories per day would have no significant impact on public health. We don’t yet have Dabrusin’s projections on caloric-intake reductions, but from what we can see at the provincial level, the impact wouldn’t be significant in any way.

A sugary drink tax shouldn’t just be dismissed because it fails to achieve its goals. It should also be dismissed because it is heavily regressive. Mexico, again as an example, shows that taxes like the one proposed have a devastating impact on low-income families. The majority of the tax revenue generated from the Mexican tax came from low-income families. Specifically, 61.3 per cent of the revenue generated came from households with low socioeconomic status. Thus, the funds raised were derived from the most vulnerable in society. Supporters of Dabrusin’s proposed tax have cited that the revenue generated would be around $1.2 billion per year. If the Mexican regressive trend holds true for Canada, which can be assumed because it was apparent in cities like Philadelphia, then $732 million of that $1.2 billion will come directly from low-income Canadians. This is an uncomfortable fact that supporters of the tax have yet to sufficiently address.

$732 million of that $1.2 billion will come directly from low-income Canadians 

Soft-drink taxes are simply bad policies being used to combat a real problem. These taxes almost always miss their mark, and disproportionately impact low-income consumers. These truths are part of the reason Cook County, Ill. (which includes Chicago) repealed its soft-drink tax. Because of these fairly consistent trends, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, in a report to the Ministry of Health, stated that “We have yet to see any clear evidence that imposing a sugar tax would meet a comprehensive cost-benefit test.” It’s clear that obesity is a problem in Canada, but it is also clear that soft-drink taxes don’t pass the cost-benefit test, and shouldn’t be considered as a serious solution.

— David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center.

Read more here

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