December 17, 2015

A much-needed start: soda tax

Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning)

Obesity is a top concern on public health. Personal and collective responsibilities are linked. The concrete issue is the following one: government may require manufacturers to release information to consumers (about calories, composition, etc.), but is there anything else that he can do?
Current strategies fall short to achieve the goals of obesity reduction. Nutritional labels are not enough, are taxes an option?. Some countries have already implemented taxes on fizzy drinks, fat or salty foods. There are complex technical issues to be considered. However, The Economist says that taxes on fizzy drinks seems to work as intended. If this is really so, then there is a much-needed reason to start in this way.
Marion Nestle in her latest book "Soda Politics" provides the hole list of arguments. Any regulator should read in detail the book, specially part IX on "Advocacy: Soda caps, taxes and more", and take into account her recommendation:
 Let me acknowledge immediately that advocacy to reduce soda intake faces special challenges that distinguish it from advocacy for reduction of alcohol, tobacco, or junk foods. Like these other industries, the soda industry sells relatively inexpensive products that are available in almost every corner of the globe. Like them, this industry is extremely wealthy. Also like the others, health is the industry’s Achilles’ heel. But in sharp contrast to companies selling junk food, alcohol, or tobacco, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo consistently rank among the most admired, respected, and honored companies in the world. Health and environmental advocates must recognize the power of this favorable public perception when encouraging others to resist it.

PS. A must read. Understanding 25 years of health policy in Catalonia, released in this journal: Referent. You'll find an article that I have written for the occasion.