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UNICEF – Implementing Taxes on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Implementing Taxes on
Sugar-Sweetened Beverages:

An overview of current approaches and the
potential benefits for children
Implementing Taxes on
Sugar-Sweetened Beverages:
An overview of current approaches and the
potential benefits for children
March 2019

Why this is
important for
children

implementingTaxesonSugarSweetenedBeverages
Unicef – implementing Taxes on Sugar Sweetened Beverages

 

01
Many countries are looking for ways to promote healthy
diets as a vital priority in the drive to prevent and control
non-communicable diseases (NCDs). To support this goal,
the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a technical
meeting report in 2016. Its guidance on how to design
fiscal policies aiming to reduce rates of obesity concluded
that the strongest health effects will result from taxes that
raise the retail price of beverages with added sugar by at
least 20 per cent.1
While illness and deaths resulting from NCDs occur mainly
in adults, the exposure to risks begins in childhood.2
Extensive evidence associates consumption of added
sugars with multiple health risks for children, including
diabetes, tooth decay and obesity.3
As of 2016, an estimated 340 million of the world’s
children and adolescents aged 5–19 were overweight
or obese, affecting 18 per cent of this population – up
from 4 per cent in 1975.4
Children with the highest intake
of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are more likely to
be overweight or obese than children with a low intake.5

Scientific standards specify that children aged 2–18 should
have less than 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, of added sugars
a day and children under age 2 should not have any at
all.6 The average can of sugary drink contains around
40 grams of free sugars, equivalent to 10 teaspoons of table
sugar – and consumption is increasing among children
and adolescents.7
As noted in the 2018 Global Nutrition
Report, although 30 per cent of all school-age children do
not eat any fruit daily, 44 per cent drink soda every day

. World Health Organization, ‘Fiscal Policies for Diet and
Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases’, Technical Meeting
Report, 5–6 May 2015, WHO, Geneva, 2016, pp. 9, 24, available
at <www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/fiscal-policiesdiet-prevention/en>.
2. World Health Organization, ‘Global Action Plan for the Prevention
and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, 2013–2020’,
Resolution WHA66.10, WHO, Geneva, 2013, p. 7, available at
<www.who.int/nmh/events/ncd_action_plan/en>.
3. See, for example: Delli Bovi, et al., ‘Obesity and Obesity Related
Diseases, Sugar Consumption and Bad Oral Health: A fatal
epidemic mixture’, Translational Medicine @ UniSA, vol. 16, no.
2, 2017, pp. 11–16.
4. World Health Organization, ‘Obesity and Overweight’, WHO,
Geneva, 16 February 2018, <www.who.int/news-room/factsheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight>. See, also: World Obesity
Federation and World Health Organization, ‘Taking Action on
Childhood Obesity’, WHO, Geneva, 2018, available at <www.
who.int/end-childhood-obesity/publications/taking-actionchildhood-obesity-report/en>.
5. World Health Organization, ‘Information Note about Intake of
Sugars Recommended in the WHO Guideline for Adults and
Children’, WHO, Geneva, 2015, p. 1, available at <www.who.int/
nutrition/publications/guidelines/sugars_intake/en>.
6. American Heart Association, ‘Added Sugars and Cardiovascular
Disease Risk in Children’, Circulation, vol. 135, no. 19, 9 May
2017, pp. e1017–e1034. For further technical information, see:
World Health Organization, ‘Guideline: Sugars intake for adults
and children’, WHO, Geneva, 2015.
7. World Health Organization, ‘Taxes on Sugary Drinks: Why do it?’,
WHO, Geneva, 2017, p. 1, open PDF from <http://apps.who.int/
iris/handle/10665/260253>.
8. Independent Expert Group of the Global Nutrition Report,
2018 Global Nutrition Report: Shining a light to spur action on
nutrition, Development Initiatives Poverty Research Ltd., Bristol,
UK, 2018, p. 16, available at <https://globalnutritionreport.org/
reports/global-nutrition-report-2018>.
9. Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, ‘Report of the
Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity’, World Health
Organization, Geneva, 2016, p. 18, available at <www.who.
int/end-childhood-obesity/publications/echo-report/en>. See,
also: Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost-Effectiveness Study
(CHOICES), ‘Brief: Cost-effectiveness of a sugar-sweetened
beverage excise tax in 15 U.S. cities’, Harvard T. H. Chan School
of Public Health, Boston, Mass., December 2016, p. 4, available
at <http://choicesproject.org/publications/brief-cost-effectivenessof-sugar-sweetened-beverage-excise-tax-in-15-us-cities>.
10. USD amounts in the case studies reflect currency conversions
carried out in January 2019, at <www.xe.com>.
11. Landon, Jane, and Hannah Graff, ‘What is the Role of HealthRelated Food Duties?’, National Heart Forum, London, 2012, p.
21.
12. Power Up for Health, ‘Taxing Sweetened Drinks in France’,
July 2015, p. 2, open PDF from <https://powerupforhealth.
files.wordpress.com/2015/09/2015-07-13_case-study-taxingsweetened-drinks-in-france.pdf>.
13. Spiegel Online, ‘French “Cola Tax” Approved: Paris vows to
fight deficit and obesity’, 29 December 2011, <www.spiegel.de/
international/europe/french-cola-tax-approved-paris-vows-to-fightdeficit-and-obesity-a-806194.html>. Note: Currency conversions
to USD in the case studies reflect rates in January 2019, as
calculated at <www.xe.com>.
14. European Competitiveness and Sustainable Industrial Policy
Consortium, Food Taxes and Their Impact on Competitiveness
in the Agri-Food Sector: Annexes to the main report, Ecorsys,
Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 12 July 2014, p. 204.
15. European Competitiveness and Sustainable Industrial Policy
Consortium, Food Taxes and Their Impact on Competitiveness
in the Agri-Food Sector: Final report, Ecorsys, Rotterdam, The
Netherlands, 12 July 2014, p. 36, available at <www.ecorys.
com/news/food-taxes-reduce-consumption-products-high-sugarsalt-and-fat>

implementingTaxesonSugarSweetenedBeverages
Unicef – implementing Taxes on Sugar Sweetened Beverages