Last week, the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), published a dedicated issue on obesity: it included a broad range of articles including one on taxing sugar sweetened beverages.
In the lead accompanying editorial, Dr. Edward Livingston notes that “although much attention has focused on SSBs, singling out these products for taxation may be the wrong approach for attempting to counteract obesity, because SSB consumption has been declining since the mid-1990s. During this period the prevalence of obesity has been increasing, suggesting that reducing general caloric intake is likely more important than reducing SSB consumption alone.”
It is then added that: “(…) there are excess calories in almost everything people eat in the modern era. Because of this, selecting one particular food type, like SSBs, for targeted reductions is not likely to influence obesity at the population level. Rather, there is a need to consider the entire food supply and gradually encourage people to be more aware of how many calories they ingest from all sources and encourage them to select foods resulting in fewer calories eaten on a daily basis. Perhaps tax policy could be used to encourage these behaviors, with taxes based on the calorie content of foods. Revenue generated from these taxes could be used to subsidize healthy foods to make them more affordable.”
In his conclusion, Dr. Livingston underlines that “the approach to the prevention and treatment of obesity needs to be reimagined. The relentless increase in the rate of obesity suggests that the strategies used to date for prevention are simply not working.”
The editorial and other articles are available here.