London: Imposing sugar tax on soft drinks and other sugary drinks can potentially improve health of thousands of adults and children by reducing rates of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay, reveals a study.
The findings, published in the Lancet Public Health journal, revealed that passing on half of the cost of the levy to consumers, leading to a 20 percent increase in the price of high and mid-sugar drinks, was predicted to reduce the number of obese adults and children by 81,600, cases of diabetes by 10,800, and decaying teeth by 149,000.
"Children stand to benefit the most, so this study is a clarion call to industry to fulfill their moral obligations to promote child wellbeing," a Indian-origin professor Neena Modi from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
"We also reiterate the importance of evaluating the true impact of the sugar tax, once it is introduced, so that the UK can provide much needed evidence to other countries that are considering emulating this potentially powerful public health intervention," Modi added.
Researchers modelled three ways that the soft drinks industry might respond to the levy -- reducing the sugar content of drinks, raising the price of sugary drinks and encouraging customers to switch to drinks containing less sugar.
For each scenario they estimated the likely effect on rates of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
The study found that a 30 percent reduction in the sugar content of all high-sugar drinks -- a step already taken by some manufacturers -- and a 15 percent reduction for moderately sugary drinks could result in 144,000 fewer adults and children being obese.
Such a step would also lead to 19,000 fewer new cases of Type 2 diabetes each year and a yearly reduction of 269,000 teeth affected by decay.
"The good news is that our study suggests that all of the most likely industry responses to the tax including reducing sugar content of soft drinks, raising prices of high-sugar drinks and increasing the market share of low-sugar drinks have the potential to improve health by reducing rates of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay," said lead study author Dr. Adam Briggs from Oxford University.
"We must therefore be vigilant to ensure the food industry acts to remove sugar from soft drinks and that where the tax is passed on to consumers it increases the price of targeted products only - drinks with high levels of sugar," Briggs concluded.