20% tax on sugary drinks would save 13,000 lives, Waterloo study finds
Ryan Flanagan, CTV Kitchener
Published Thursday, March 16, 2017 6:02PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 16, 2017 6:46PM EDT
Researchers at the University of Waterloo say they’ve come up with a way to prevent 13,000 deaths, up to 200 cases of type 2 diabetes, and more than 20,000 cases of cancer in Canada alone.
Their idea? Add an extra 20 per cent to the consumer cost of sugary drinks.
“A 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks would save around 13,000 lives over the next 25 years, mainly through reducing type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease,” David Hammond, a co-author of the study, said in an interview.
Having that many people living healthier lives would in turn reduce some of the burden on Canada’s health-care system – likely saving the country as much as $12 billion in health care costs over the next 25 years.
The financial benefits wouldn’t end there. Hammond and his colleagues see the tax bringing in somewhere around $44 billion for the federal government over the same time period.
Hammond calls it “one of the easiest ways” to make Canadians healthier and decrease the amount of money needed for health care.
The study also estimates that a tax on sugary drinks would prevent 600,000 cases of obesity.
“Two-thirds of Canadians are obese or overweight,” Hammond says.
“That translates into increased disease, but it’s also things like knee problems that affect our daily lives.”
Canadian Beverage Association president Jim Goetz says the beverage industry already has things “going in the right direction,” with beverages already make up fewer calories in many peoples’ diets.
“Putting a tax on a product that only makes up about seven per cent of Canadians’ calories is simply not going to move the needle on obesity,” he said.
The Canadian Cancer Society – one of several organizations which funded the study – has a different view, noting that health care costs are a major component of government spending across Canada.
“The numbers are quite overwhelming,” said Mélanie Champagne, the organization’s director of public issues.
“We have to do something.”
While taxes on sugar are typically associated with soft drinks, sales figures for pop in Canada have actually been on the decline.
Between 2004 and 2015, per capita sales figures for those drinks fell by 27 per cent. It was a very different story for beverages like energy drinks (638 per cent increase), sweetened coffee (579 per cent) and flavoured water (527 per cent).
According to Hammond, the average Canadian drinks 500 millilitres a day of sugary drinks.
With reporting by Abigail Bimman